An interview with Author, John P. David
In the last 2 years I have been busy recruiting surgeons in key specialties. Today 40% of our surgeons are new to the Center. Before I visit a targeted physician, I first research the doctor online. It gives me an overview of their education, experience and customer services ranking, as imperfect as it is, can tell me a lot about a particular medical practice. I also like to check in on physicians who are presently on staff, and seeing how they are doing in the virtual world. I am delighted to see that 4 of the top 10 ranked Miami ophthalmologists listed on Yelp are Coral Gables Surgery Center eye docs. Congrats to Dr. Joseph Selem, Dr. Daniel Hwang, Dr. Gabriel Lazcano & Dr. Fred Mann.
Reputation management and preserving our brand as professionals is a great topic. Over lunch & champagne at a South Miami eatery I got an opportunity to interview John P. David, author of an upcoming book on this virtual reality. Or as he calls it… judge, jury, and executioner for anyone’s reputation.
Q: Is reputation management a new area for public relations? Or are we now more aware of it because of social media?
JPD: The term reputation management has been in the public relations lexicon for decades, but it wasn’t particularly well defined. It included many aspects of PR like issues management and thought leadership- higher level concepts in the profession. Then the internet changed everything. The concept on “online reputation management” took over and the two terms are now practically synonymous. Today, when most people discuss online reputation management they are talking about ways to impact search results, typically by creating new content to “push down” negative content. Because of the internet and social media, I believe that many people and businesses are more aware of their reputations because the Internet and Google offer a more permanent record on how we are perceived.
Q: Do you think the reputation of a physician is significantly more important than that of other professionals?
JPD: I believe all professionals need to be aware of their reputations, but physicians have some specific vulnerabilities. Some physicians only have one marketing opportunity with a potential client. If you need a hip replacement, for example, it is most likely that you will only have that procedure done one time- there is less chance of repeat business. A patient may be researching 10 doctors to do this procedure but only one will get the business, so the doctors better have a good reputation if they want a shot at the work. One negative review can cause a great deal of reputation damage.
Q: From looking at the popular physician ranking sites, like Healthgrades, Yelp, Vitals, one of the things that strikes me the most is the inaccuracies and old information listed. What are your thoughts on this… What can be done to keep listings current?
JPD: The reality is that review sites are here to stay and physicians who ignore or neglect them do so at their own peril. Whether they like it or not, patients and others are reviewing them- and these reviews impact their reputation. The best practice in my opinion is to engage with these sites, and use the tools provided by them to actively participate on the sites. Having up-to-date information will ultimately reside with the physician.
Q: If a physician offers a patient a discount for services if they write a favorable review, would you consider this smart or unethical?
JPD: I can’t really judge the ethics part. Is it medically unethical? I don’t know. Is it unethical from a business perspective? Probably not. However, such policies can backfire as an upset patient may say the physician tried to “bribe” them into giving them a positive review. If that type of information gets out, it can cause significant reputational damage. The best practice with most review sites is to ask for customers for reviews but not try to game the system. The review sites are sophisticated businesses, run by top minds in the tech world, and they are very good at sniffing-out attempts at manipulation.
Q: Some hospitals, ASCs and clinics are abandoning the practice of sharing details about their physicians on line. Preferring to just offer the basic info about their specialists. Any reason you can think of why consumers are getting less info from medical facilities, not more?
JPD: This is an interesting question as the marketplace- for healthcare and everything else- is moving towards more transparency. If a medical facility does not offer great content, and plenty of it, then the marketplace will go find it. And if they can’t find it, the marketplace may create it- in the form of new review sites and new platforms. As consumers, we want the option of information. If we don’t find information, we move on to the next guy.
Q: If a physician receives one negative review, but many other positive reviews by patients, do you think this balances the perception of the physician’s practice? Or do we tend to focus on the negative?
JPD: The review sites have studied this, and what they have learned is that consumers don’t believe that any organization is perfect. Therefore, they are wary of companies, restaurants, hotels and even doctors that have all “5 star” reviews. The sites have also learned that people will focus on a negative review, but this review presents an excellent opportunity for a physician. For example, consumers want to see a response to a negative review and understand how the physician dealt with the negative situation. Did they ignore it? Was the reviewer out of bounds? Did the doctor do everything they could to remedy a problem? How you handle the negative review is very important.
Q: How important do you think it is to have photographs or videos on line for healthcare services?
JPD: I believe it is absolutely critical to have images and videos as a key component of online marketing. We are visual people with short attention span. We want to be told stories visually whenever possible.
Q: Can you offer some tips on how a physician can present his/her practice better online?
JPD: 1) Claim your online profiles so it is easy for potential patients to find you online. Doctors should be on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook- even if they aren’t super engaged. 2) With regard to online reviews, the genie is out of the bottle. They are here to stay so physicians need to have a strategy and a plan to manage them. 3) Build positive online content for your practice as it helps with your marketing and also helps fortify your “reputation firewall” .
John P. David is President at David PR Group. His book, How to Protect (Or Destroy) Your Reputation Online is due out in October 2016, and available at www.amazon.com. You can learn more about the book and about John at www.OnlineRepBook.com I can’t wait to read it!
Pic: If you Google my name, this is what you get. Action figure Maria Freed, is part of the popular Japanese UFO Robo Grendizer series. She has a million plus fans worldwide & her own planet. I do not.