If they aren’t talking about you now, they will at some point. Patients review doctors. And if you think you can control people’s conversations, you’ll be in for a world of pain. You can only control what you create and say. Another core reality of life in a connected world as a doctor: While patients can talk about you, you can’t talk about them.
So what do you do when a patient reviews you online?
Listen. If there’s an ounce of truth to it, consider changing your ways. If it’s ugly or untrue, I’m sorry about that. Sometimes reaching out to that patient offline may help settle a misunderstanding or smooth over a marginal clinical experience. Perhaps then they’d be willing to remove their opinions, but don’t count on it. Instead of obsessing about critical comments, think about what you can do to facilitate dazzling dialogue. What are you doing today to drive glowing public comments by your patients?
Remember that dialogue around criticisms of your care should never take place on review sites or any other public venue.
Let the patients speak
In order to keep patients quiet, some practices have imposed mandatory gag orders that prevent commentary on ratings sites.
This is insane.
The idea that you can control public dialogue reflects an embarrassing misunderstanding of how the world shares information. These gag orders showcase how desperately disconnected some corners of the medical community have become.
Can you imagine if the purchase of a pair of shoes at Nordstrom was contingent upon the completion of a nondisclosure?
Instead, we should encourage dialogue. How about we work to ensure that our level of service and care is so extraordinary that the conversation is largely positive?
Beware the Streisand effect
Doctors are preoccupied with consumer review sites and the potential for bad press. Often the first impulse is to put the law on your side. Consider, for example, the case of a Los Angeles cosmetic surgeon who not long ago initiated legal action against reviewers from sites such as Yelp and DoctorScorecard. While she may have felt some satisfaction in her quest for justice, the end result was that every curious member of the free world read the reviews to see what the fuss was all about.
Actions like these reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of modern reputation management. Physicians who react negatively toward patient dialogue should understand the Streisand effect. The Streisand effect is an online phenomenon in which the attempt to remove or hide information is met with the unintended consequence of greater attention.
Instead of a prohibitive, reactive position against patient comments, doctors should consider a preemptive, proactive approach to dialogue. Andy Sernovitz, bestselling author of Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking, had it right when he wrote, “the solution to pollution is dilution.” Work for good ink. It’s hard to get worked up about ten poor reviews when you have three hundred fifty great reviews.
When physicians take action against patient reviews or even work to prevent them, they raise a glaring red flag. You’ll never win the battle against public conversation.