Beware Invisible Doctors

November 18, 2013

skitchBunny Elerin posted this tweet today.  Note to doctors: We’re responsible for what others understand about us.  We’re responsible for framing our own story.  And if we don’t, someone else will.

It’s reaching a point where the absence of real information on a doctor is considered creepy.  Or, as Bunny suggests, useless.


Ryan Madanick, MD November 19, 2013 at 11:44 am

Besides info we craft ourselves (e.g., blogs, articles, etc), plus the general data about education/training, what additional information should be routinely available about individual physicians? I surmise there is a huge amount of data available about us, like prescribing habits and such, but patient outcomes are much harder to formally document.

In GI, Peter Cotton advocates an ERCP “Report Card” ( Work like this is important but also resource-intensive. I’d love to see more, but we have to recognize that patient care is often team-based as well.

DrV November 19, 2013 at 8:16 pm

I spend all my time thinking about what I can directly control. Quality metrics are key for patients, but there’s little we can do to control these except our best.

Murat Cannoyan November 19, 2013 at 11:52 am

It is a sad state of affairs but with your good work and many others I’m hopefully change is a comin! Lets just hope we can do better than waiting for a generational shift.

Bunny Ellerin November 19, 2013 at 11:54 am

Wow Dr. V – I look good on your site! Seriously it infuriates me that doctors let this happen and that Google sanctions it. We need to talk…

Jeff fine November 19, 2013 at 1:01 pm

I am a physician. I work 12-14 hrs a day . And I am too busy to be concerned about healthgrades etc.
I have emergencies and tumultuous is the standard.

I know I am doing the best I can . I always apologize for running late . Nothing runs on time in the doctor world.
And that’s okay because we are all taking care of a precious invaluable commodity … A human being .
I take a much time as necessary !
I’m good with that and so should those individuals who entrust in me!

DrV November 19, 2013 at 8:17 pm

Your confidence is inspiring. And yes, what we do will always trump the way we look in public.

Ethan B. Ruben, MD November 20, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Dear Dr. Fine,

My experience has been the same, but thankfully I have now retired. Boarded in Pediatrics, I actually cared for patients of all ages, specializing in developmental disorders and chronic disease. Care of senior patients, and of children developmentally delayed, takes considerably more time than the average visit for an otherwise healthy person. If the primary care MD simply cannot afford to give that essential time, the patient ends up in the ER or hospitalized.

Current reembursement for primary care, and for specialists whose major work is out-patient based, often fails to even cover office overhead. This hits the neurologist, for example, especially hard with a substancial number of senior patients with Alzheimers Disease, other causes of Dementia, and Multiple Chronic Diseases.

If a senior patient has to move in order to live with younger family, it is difficult to find another PCP who will accept new patients under Medicare. In the case of psychiatry, it is next to impossible short of concierge care and few can afford it.

In reviewing Health Grade evaluations of my own PCP and multiple specialists, I find that patient responses often fail to reflect the skill and consideration of their own MD and staff. As the old adage goes, make one service provider happy and he or she will tell another. Make another unhappy or dissatisfied and they will tell ten!

Alexander Flint November 19, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Every time I speak publicly to doctors and nurses, I ask the same question @EricTopol asks such groups – ‘show of hands, how many of you are on Twitter?’ It’s still less than 5% in my sample. Of course, when Topol tells his audience that in 5 years every hand will go up, the audience seems to believes him (perhaps not so with me).

The reluctance among so many U.S. physicians to embrace social media and a personally curated web presence is worthy of a proper academic study, no?

DrV November 19, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Interesting. And yes, a study would be interesting. What would be most interesting is if a journal would offer it the time of day. It might go run against the bias that caution and fear of a public presence is both normal and appropriate. Pardon my sarcasm.

Bunny Ellerin November 19, 2013 at 5:25 pm

There are specific actions any doctor can take to reclaim his or her professional identity online. One basic one is claiming your LinkedIn profile and composing a real bio (not generic doctor speak). We’re talking 15 – 30 minutes max. I’m not pushing anyone to blog, tweet, pin, check-in or check out. These are certainly possibilities, but there are far more basic things any doctor can do to diminish the influence of these awful ratings sites.

DrV November 19, 2013 at 8:10 pm

Agreed, Bunny. I sell the same idea. I might add that we should never underestimate the difficulty of composing a basic personal narrative. What is our story? What drives us and what do we want the world to know? Not small qustions. This alone can be a big deal, although not insurmountable.

I (we) have a bad habit of making sound dangerously easy. It is. But it isn’t.

Mike Cadogan November 19, 2013 at 7:01 pm

Thanks Dr V
I think you should change the title from ‘Beware Invisible Doctors’ to ‘Be Aware, Invisible Doctors’
30 minutes of thought and action is all it takes to create a foothold in the digital space – to change perception and to take ownership of your digital presence.
If you don’t do it – somebody else will.

DrV November 19, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Brilliant title rec, yes. Remarkable how little time it takes to begin the process of creating your footprint.

Jeff livingston November 19, 2013 at 8:26 pm

I always remind docs that you already have a digital reputation. The key is who is controlling it. Engaging online allows you to shape your own footprint. Like Bunny says a quick LinkedIn account goes a long way. By choosing not to engage your online reputation will still exist but will be created about you and for you by someone else.

DrV November 19, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Or as I like to say, you’re part of the conversation whether you’re there or not…..

antbar November 21, 2013 at 2:27 am

In other worlds, people work 12 – 14 hours a day. The companies they work for very important to their owners. People everywhere know that they are doing the best they can. Unfortunately, if the goals set for the people working are not achieved, people get fired and companies fail.

Doctors have a moral duty to organize themselves to be measured ruthlessly, as they are working with precious human beings. Pilots have accepted a zero failure tolerance and most planes land safely. Why cannot doctors expect scrutiny or even put forth their own records for others to see and comment on? Even artists have to put their work on display sometime, and face the brutal honesty of other’s scrutiny.

This is not a question of social media. This is a pure question of accountability. Sort of a “no doctor left behind” program.

Dayna Davis November 22, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Dayna Davis here on behalf of I’m part of the social media team at Healthgrades. I came across this string about owning your online reputation, and wanted to make sure you all know that Healthgrades has a free, secure self-service part of our website where healthcare providers can update their profiles with richer info including specific procedures performed, insurance accepted, even your care philosophy:

Healthgrades gets more than 30 million visitors each month, so it’s a pretty powerful resource. Updating your profile helps ensure patients and your peers see the most up-to-date information to choose a healthcare provider who meets their needs – and it helps you attract the kinds of patients who are best for your practice.

You can also publish a response to patient surveys on Healthgrades, or get more surveys completed to better represent sentiments about you. We’ve got a dedicated team to support you with managing your profile (you can reach them here: ). I’m also always open to feedback on how we can make our site better.

Bunny Ellerin November 22, 2013 at 3:17 pm

I’m glad that Dayna posted because every doctor should claim his/her profile on HealthGrades and any other ratings site that allows this. It is essential because it will give prospective patients and others a way to locate you. I am still not a fan of ratings sites bc they now own the majority of search real estate when it comes to locating doctors. As a patient, I really want to hear from the doctor first – not a ratings site where information is often incomplete and ratings – if there are any – are from anonymous people.

DrV November 23, 2013 at 7:07 am

What if I don’t want a profile on HealthGrades? What if I don’t want Healthgrades to represent me. I’d like to represent myself.

Bunny Ellerin November 23, 2013 at 9:08 am

They already represent you much the way the Yellow Pages used to represent every doctor, lawyer and other professional. Even as prolific as you are in social media, HealthGrades shows up 4th when I search on your name. It’s up to you whether you want to make sure the information you can control there is accurate.

DrV November 24, 2013 at 5:51 pm

I don’t want to feel compelled to be represented by a platform just because they’ve optimized my name for search. It’s not the right reason for participating. And your tweet perfectly represents the general view of Healthgrades.

Dayna Davis November 25, 2013 at 10:16 am

DrV – we don’t have an opt out. The information we post is all publicly available information, and we post it as a service to consumers. We do want to make sure providers have the opportunity to update any information, though, which is why we have the physician update area of the site.

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