A while back I came across a new tool for those who, like me, use Dr Google but are concerned about the quality of some of the available online health information.
The tool contains two checklists and has been designed for medical education resource producers, editors, end-users, and researchers. I’ll let the authors explain:
“Through a rigorous research process, a list of 151 quality indicators for blogs and podcasts was formed and subsequently refined to elicit the most important quality indicators. These indicators are presented as Quality Checklists to assist with quality appraisal of medical blogs and podcasts.”
The checklists have three domains: credibility, content and design, and cover topics such as avoiding bias and conflict of interest, providing clear information about the identity and qualifications of the author, and referring to sources. The checklists also focus on design and didactic value.
I believe they can be useful for patients to assess the quality of online health resources. For more information read about the 6 warning signs that will help you stay clear from quackery sites.
This tool has the potential to take many health blogs and podcasts to the next level. It is available at no cost and can be found here.
On his blog Dr Yong shares ideas about healthy living: “It’s about getting back to basics and building a strong foundation of health. It’s about turning your good intentions into lasting change. It’s about you taking control and living a better life.” Very inspiring.
‘The healthy GP – Live intentionally, love relentlessly and enjoy your health.’ By Dr Jonathan Ramachenderan
Dr Ramachenderan and his family live in the country in Western Australia where he practices as a General Practitioner and anaesthetist. He has some excellent advice for men and dads.
“We are in the busy, child rearing season of life coupled with the beginning of my career and hence achieving a balance is important. I am passionate about men’s health, helping and communicating with other dads, building stronger relationships with our wives and becoming wiser, stronger and more insightful men.”
‘Armchair rants from Dr Deloony, musings on Medicine and Life.’ By Dr Claire Noonan
Dr Noonan is a country GP and freelance writer. “My interests, medical and otherwise include but are not limited to: humans, science, general practice, bariatric medicine and surgery, fiction, music, travel, food/nutrition, mental health, philosophy and kittens. I am VERY interested in kittens.” Personal and well-written posts.
‘DrJustinColeman – Medical writer, editor, blogger.’ By Dr Justin Coleman
Dr Justin Coleman is a well-known GP-writer who looks sceptically at health interventions where the evidence suggests they might not actually be worthwhile. This is part of his broader interest in the public health concept of equity – fair access to primary health care for everyone.
As he writes on his blog: Despite earnest intentions, he frequently breaks out into lighter reflections on GP practice, with its quirks and oddities – often discovering the oddest person in the room is him!
‘Genevieve’s anthology – Writings to amuse, teach, inspire and entertain.’ By Dr Genevieve Yates
The multi-talented Dr Yates is not only a freelance columnist and novel/play writer, but she also finds the time to play and teach violin and piano, sing, and play in two orchestras.
“This website features a collection of my writings. Here you will find links to and samples of my newspaper columns, novel, short stories, plays and creative medical educational material, plus the odd blog or two.”
‘Dr Charles – The blog musings of Dr Charles Alpren.’ By Dr Charles Alpren
Dr Alpren worked at (and blogged about!) the Ebola Treatment Centre in Sierra Leone. He is currently a locum GP who works all over Australia. He has an interest in children’s health, vaccinations and infectious disease, and is also interested in teaching and Public Health.
‘KarenPriceBlog – Hippocrates meets Xanthippe.’ By Dr Karen Price
Miscellaneous topics and reblogged posts – often with thought-provoking commentary by Dr Price. Dr Price is Chair of the Women In General Practice Committee of the Victorian RACGP.
“I am active on Twitter and interested in technology as it relates to health. I am prone to an occasional rant so the picture of me with a thistle is probably appropriate. I welcome respectful debate as it contributes to the Science and Art of Medicine.”
‘FOAM4GP – Free Open Access Meducation 4 General Practice.’ Various authors
Excellent and comprehensive collection of blog posts and podcasts by various rural and city GPs.
“This blog and podcast is for Australian General practitioners, training to be one or already working as one. We cover the whole range of our medical specialty and give you what you need to pass your exams and keep learning in your clinical practice.”
The blog was founded by Dr Rob Park, Dr Minh Le Cong, Dr Casey Parker, Dr Tim Leeuwenburg, Dr Jonathan Ramachenderan, Dr Melanie Considine and Dr Gerry Considine.
‘Michael Tam – Publications archive.’ By Dr Micheal Tam
Michael Tam is a Staff Specialist in General Practice at the Academic General Practice Unit in Fairfield Hospital, in Sydney. His blog is a collection of interesting research articles and interviews.
Dr Tam’s clinical interest is in comorbid substance use disorder and mental health disorders. His research interests are in the detection of at-risk drinking in the primary care setting, and in e-learning in medical education.
‘GreenGP – Reflections of a Rural GP.’ By Dr Melanie Considine
An interesting blog with lots of medical conference reports, tips for students and GP registrars – including how to use social media. Dr Considine is a board member of the SA/NT RACGP Faculty and the RACGP National Rural Faculty.
‘Broome Docs – Medical education blog for rural GPs.’ By Dr Casey Parker
Top blog intended to provide a single source of up-to-date educational material for country doctors.
“I hope this site can expand this brain pool of rural doctors – please feel free to leave comments on the cases and posts presented – we can all learn from one another – no matter how far we are from the really smart guys in the big centres.”
‘THE PHARM – Prehospital and retrieval medicine.’ By Dr Minh Le Cong
Dr Le Cong’s comprehensive blog is for the health professionals working in remote locations, outside a hospital, on aircraft, ambulances, in outposts who have to deal with emergencies and the unexpected.
“My focus is rural Australia but my journey will be international, hearing from folks in other countries and how they deal with out-of-hospital emergencies. Of course I am a flying doctor so there will be a healthy dose of aeromedicine.”
‘KI Doc – Kangaroo Island doctor blogging about Rural Medicine in Australia.’ By Dr Tim Leeuwenburg
Encouraged by emergency medicine and retrieval medicine blogs such as EmCrit, Resus.me, BroomeDocs and Prehospitalmed, Dr Leeuwenburg has embraced the #FOAMed paradigm: “Whilst the lifeinthefastlane emergency physicians have lead this in Australasia, I reckon #FOAMed has a lot to offer rural doctors.” Excellent blog.
Ginni Mansberg is a well-known, celebrity doctor in Australia. She is a Sydney GP sidelining for Sunrise & Morning Show, various magazines, and is a self-proclaimed wannabe Masterchef and caffeine addict.
‘Do It Yourself Health DIY Health), Healthy Living and Health Information from Dr Joe.’ By Dr Joe Kosterich
Dr Kosterich is a well-known GP, author, and keynote speaker. “Your well-being is the most important thing you have. My passion is empowering you to take charge of your own health through easy to understand steps enabling you to live well for longer.”
‘PartridgeGP – professional, comprehensive and empowering healthcare.’ By Dr Nick Tellis
This is a great example of a practice website with health tips and interesting newspaper articles and reblogged posts including comments by Dr Tellis. Dr Tellis is passionate about great quality General Practice and is enjoying beach-side practice after seven years in rural South Australia.
Dr George Forgan-Smith is a GP and passionate gay doctor in Melbourne Australia: “I have a strong interest in male health, mental health and health promotion. I enjoy writing and teaching and I hope that this website may help to inspire other men to move towards health in all aspects of their life.”
‘The Influence of the Tricorder.’ By Dr Tim Senior
Dr Senior has an interest in Aboriginal health & medical education. Other themes he often writes about are environments that keep us well and social justice.
His blog is an amazing collection of various articles he has published over the years. “I write stuff. It ends up in various places on the web. This site keeps track by linking to it all from one place.”
A well-written and beautiful blog about solving healthcare problems with creativity, intuition and insight with lean and inexpensive innovations. Dr Jiwa is Professor of Health Innovation at Curtin University and a GP practicing in Western Australia. He is also the Editor in Chief of The Australasian Medical Journal.
‘Dr Thinus’ musings – This is Canberra calling.’ By Dr Thinus van Rensburg
“Canberra – we love it and, despite what the rest of Australia might think, it is not just about pollies and Public Servants. It has it’s ups and downs but this is our hometown and I hope readers enjoy my occasional posts.” Honest commentary on a variety of articles and reblogged posts by Dr Van Rensburg.
Ok, so I was wrong. I really liked the RACGP good GP television commercial. It had some flaws but I thought they were small in the grand scheme of things (see my last post). But many patient advocates did not agree and were unhappy about the lack of communication portrayed in the video.
Blogger Michelle Roger commented: “My current GP asks me what I want to do, what I think is most important and together we sort through the problem at hand and potential solutions. I feel valued and heard and trust her more knowing that she listens and knows me and my family.”
“That for me was missing in the video. It was one-sided and the patients appeared little more than props to be talked at. In fact the patients had no voice at all. A problem that still permeates a lot of medicine.”
Crockey health blog posted an article titled ‘The Good GP never stops learning: the RACGP video that made doctors cry – and patient advocates wince’. In a response to this article Irish blogger Marie Ennis-O’connor wrote on her blog: “We can’t just talk about a commitment to patient centred care – we have to live it. It is only by bridging the divide which places patient and doctor expertise on opposite sides that we can achieve more personalized and meaningful care of the patient.”
I wondered why the patient opinion was so different to mine. On Twitter it was suggested to me that more doctors should read patient blogs to understand their view better. I thought that was a good idea so I asked for some recommendations and started reading.
I can tell you, it didn’t cheer me up but it was enlightening. It felt a bit like a refresher course “do’s and dont’s for doctors”. What I read was that, in the eyes of patients:
Doctors often don’t know how to deal with disabilities
Doctors sometimes blame patients for treatment failures
Some doctors find it hard to accept patients as experts
Doctors don’t always communicate well.
Now that I’ve read the blog posts I feel that I can better appreciate the patient response to the RACGP video – and I learnt a lot more along the way.
I have been given permission to share parts of these blogs and I recommend anyone who works in healthcare to read on. It may help to bridge the divide. Doctors beware: don’t expect flattery.
Empathy towards disability
In one of her posts writer and speaker Carly Findlay tells the story of how doctors gave up on her and told her parents to prepare for her death, and how she later met one of these doctors.
(…) “Over the Christmas holidays, I introduced myself as an adult to the dermatologist who gave me a pretty dismal prognosis as a baby. He pretended not to remember me until he told me I always had blocked ears. I think he was surprised to see me. I told him some of my achievements including how I am now educating dermatologists about my condition (something he needed when he treated me).”
(…) “Other people with Ichthyosis tell me that doctors didn’t give them a chance either. My friends have said that their parents were told they wouldn’t make it into mainstream school, that they wouldn’t have relationships or children, and that they would be social outcasts.”
(…) “The political models of disability can determine a person’s compassion and empathy towards disability. And so a doctor’s low expectations for a baby born with a disability can set the scene for their attitude through the lifespan of that patient.” (…) Doctors need to move past the textbook and immerse themselves in the disability community to truly learn and empathise with our experiences.”
Blogger Caf explains how doctors told her to see a psychiatrist when their attempts to treat her chronic pain failed.
“I had arrived at the appointment of the reveal, hobbling with a pair of forearm crutches. I could hardly bear any weight on the offending ankle. It didn’t take long for him to deliver his message, laced with condescension and arrogance. ‘There’s nothing wrong with your ankle. Why are you on crutches?’”
(…) “Chronic pain has been misunderstood and stigmatised for so long that many people probably don’t know what to believe. Even patients themselves often wonder if they’ve just gone crazy because their symptoms are so utterly illogical.”
Caf says that her experiences have affected her trust: “I’m not sure that I truly trust any doctors, despite having a lovely GP.”
Michelle also writes about pain in this post: “And there is a pervasive idea of the drug-seeker, seen in every patient who has chronic pain. That those who simply don’t get over pain and require ongoing pharmaceutical management are weak.”
“Friends who have used pain clinics tell stories of dismissal and blame. That they are not trying hard enough when they don’t recover, when I know the lengths they have gone to to try and alleviate their pain. And compassionate pain doctors who become the exception not the rule.”
The patient as expert
In another post she writes: “As a patient with an unusual, complex, and poorly understood disorder, 9 times out of 10 when I see a new doctor I am the expert in the room.”
(…) “I spend my spare time researching my disorders on Medline. I flip through Cochrane Reviews, and review consensus statements regularly. I read up on the drugs I’m taking and keep abreast of current research trials. On forums, I can ask questions of other patients.
“The constant fight to be heard is exhausting
(…) “Some doctors are quite happy to acknowledge that I may know more about my disorder than they do. For example, my GP is happy for me to take the lead on my treatment needs. Even my cardiologist is happy to discuss my disorder in more of a collegiate manner, than the traditional doctor-patient relationship.”
(…) “Yet there are many others who are nothing short of dismissive. Should I dare to suggest a potential treatment or line of investigation the appointment can become adversarial. At times what I say is outright ignored.”
“Case in point my recent hospital admission. Despite having a red allergy band on my arm, sharing the information from my Allergist, and speaking to both my neurosurgeon, anaesthetist and senior nurse about my allergy to adhesives, I awoke to welts and rashes across my body. My pre-op information met with eye rolls, a sense that I was over-anxious, and thus completely ignored.”
(…) “The constant fight to be heard is exhausting. We are told that we must be our own advocates. That the future is patient-centred medicine. That rapport and making a patient feel part of the decision-making model leads to more compliance and more successful outcomes.”
Michelle: “Patients no longer live in a bubble where they are reliant upon their doctors as the only source of information. With the advent of social media and the ease of access to medical journals, patients can be as up to date, and at times, in front of their doctors, with regard to advances within their various disorders. We come empowered and informed to our appointments and have an expectation that our doctors will be equally informed or at the least, willing to listen and work with us.”
“We have an expectation that our doctors will be equally informed or at the least, willing to listen and work with us
“The medical community needs to be aware of the new ways information is being shared, especially the speed at which information can now travel. Instead of criticising patients for researching their ailments, they should instead be working with them, especially to direct them to more appropriate medically sound sources of information.”
“Patients are already distrustful of big pharma and the way research is funded. If their physicians also refuse to help them navigate these areas or are dismissive of their efforts, such distrust will also pass to them, to the detriment of both practitioner and patient.”
Carly: “I went to hospital earlier this year. I was so sore, and a bit miserable. I saw a junior doctor, one I had not seen before. I spent an hour in the consult room, talking to her about Ichthyosis, but also my job, blogging, wedding plans, travel and the Australian Ichthyosis meet.”
“Their compassion means I am a human being first
“She said I was the first patient she’d met with Ichthyosis and she wanted to learn more than what she’d seen in the textbook. Her supervisor came in to provide further input into my treatment. Again, we talked about life, not just Ichthyosis.”
“And she told this junior doctor how lucky they are to have me as their educator. What a compliment. I am so lucky to feel empowered as a patient at my hospital. These doctors listen to me. They treat me as a person not a diagnosis. They see my potential and are proud of my achievements. Their compassion means I am a human being first.”
My first blog was a travel blog. Nancy and I were working and travelling around Australia and New Zealand and, like so many others, we blogged about our down-under experience. The audience: Family and friends. Number of daily visitors: 3-5.
In 2004 there was no Twitter, and LinkedIn and Facebook were the new kids on the block. Still, it was good fun. We were passionate about our travel adventures and we enjoyed uploading the pictures we took with our 4 megapixel Sony Cybershot.
Four years later we settled down in Western Australia and started a business. A blog became part of the new practice website.
In the early days the blog attracted 20-30 visitors per day, but after a while the number grew to 40-60. Connecting the blog to the practice social media accounts made a big difference. I learned a lot about content – what works and what doesn’t.
In 2013 we decided to move back to Queensland and I left the practice. I began to focus more on my Doctor’s bag blog (it’s good to see the Panaceum blog is still very much alive).
Keeping a blog going is hard work. There is no ‘easy way’ to do it. The competition is fierce and as there are many great bloggers out there, it’s not that simple to get noticed.
I really enjoy blogging – which helps of course. I am fortunate to work in an industry that’s a constant source of inspiration.
Slowly the visitors number started to climb to 80-100 per day.
But just as I thought my blog was taking off, writer’s block hit me hard. My creativity was gone. I didn’t blog for a while. The longer I didn’t post anything, the more attractive the thought of deleting my WordPress account.
English is not my first language and I often struggle to find the correct words. So, I argued, why not save myself the trouble and stop blogging altogether?
One evening I was reading an article about writer’s block. It was the break-through I needed. The author, Jeff Goins, simply said: “You overcome writer’s block by writing.” His message was short & sweet: It doesn’t matter what you write, as long as you get going.
That’s what I did and somehow it worked. Before I knew it, the inspiration was back and the blog ideas started flowing again.
The first time my daily visitors number reached 1K, I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was a one-off, just luck, but last month over 15,000 people visited Doctor’s bag.
Although I want people to read my posts, it has never been my goal to get more visitors – nor do I think the hit counter is a measure of success. I enjoy producing content that makes others think. If it leads to change – even in the smallest way – I’ve reached my goal.
There will always be people with more writing talent, better posts and more followers, so I try to keep Bill Gates’ words in mind:
“Don’t compare yourself with anyone in this world… if you do so, you are insulting yourself
But there is one thing that is more important than anything else…
The best tip
The one thing that determines success in blogging, and in many other ventures in life, is perseverance. It is important to follow your passion. If you enjoy writing, the best tip I can give you is: Don’t give up.
Everybody has a story to tell, so keep writing. You will get better at it and people will find your blog.
Picture from my first travel blog in 2004, dropped off at Lizard Island, North Queensland, with food, water, tent & map.
“If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.” ~ Steve Jobs
It’s great to see the steady increase in interest for social media in healthcare. What’s your passion? If you are keen to start a blog or further improve your blogging skills, there are amazing bloggers you should follow, like Seth Godin, Jeff Goins, Michael Hyatt.
My slideshow How to create a blog that makes a difference (above) contains quotes and tips from some of my idols in the blogosphere. I have also attempted to collect and present the (many) reasons why people start a blog in healthcare, common pitfalls, 3 steps for putting a great blog idea into action, and lots of tips for writing awesome posts.
There seems to be a significant growth of social media usage in the Australian healthcare industry.
In the past years we have seen surprisingly influential social media campaigns, like AHPRAaction, ScrapTheCap, InternCrisis, and very recently NoAdsPlease. These campaigns not only rally for better health care policies; they also signal a shift towards more transparency and accountability.
Characteristics of the social media campaigns are:
They spread quickly and generate a lot of media attention
The participants are very passionate about their cause
They are often supported by different groups including consumers
They may or may not be supported by professional organisations
They are very effective.
At the same time other social media movements, like FOAM (free open access medical education) are gaining momentum. Again, these grassroots initiatives are driven by passion – a powerful force. It won’t take long before health care professionals can do their continuing professional education via free social media sources.
I don’t think many professional and health care organisations are ready for these changes – yet they are coming whether we like it or not.
Psychiatrist and blogger Dr Helen Schultz is a social media enthusiast. Helen was involved in the successful AHPRAaction campaign. She believes social media skills are important for doctors: “I feel in the next 6-12 months there will be even more awareness of the need for doctors to know how to use social media professionally, but also how to use it to your advantage, building your brand, your platform and your voice.”
“The time has passed where we can be complacent and think patients will listen to us just because we are doctors,” she says. “We are largely absent from health debates currently, and others educate about health which may not always be necessarily evidenced based. In addition, we must claim our social media real estate, ie own our domain names and twitter handles to prevent others pretending to be us.”
Helen has taken it upon herself to organise a social media workshop for doctors and managers, and she has invited me to speak about blogging. Helen: “On the back of the success of the AHPRAaction campaign – and because I was so inspired by my colleagues around Australia, I thought we had to meet and put our heads together about how doctors can use social media in Australia to join health debates and run really successful campaigns.”
Some excellent speakers presenting at the workshop: Ms Dionne Kasian-Lew, Dr Brad McKay, Ms Jen Morris, Dr Jill Tomlinson, Dr Amit Vohra, Ms Mary Freer, and Dr Marie Bismark. Dr Mukesh Haikerwal is guest of honour.
Social Media by the Sea is a full day interactive workshop with practical tips and insights from the experts about their successful use of social media, whether it be as a blogger, advocate or part of campaign building. Time: Saturday, 15 November 2014. Place: Peppers “The Sands Resort”, Torquay, Victoria. Send email.
What is it like to be a General Practitioner in Australia? What are Australian Family Doctors passionate about? What do they struggle with? The Amazing Australian GP Bloggers 2014 give readers a rare look behind the scene.
Bloggers like Justin Coleman, Jacquie Garton-Smith, Genevieve Yates and Penny Wilson are great storytellers with an impressive writing talent. Penny’s post Sorry… But are you really a doctor, reached number 7 in the most popular WordPress blog posts worldwide.
Then there are the GP bloggers who focus on teaching and sharing skills and knowledge, like Michael Tam, Casey Parker, Tim Leeuwenburg, Minh Le Cong and Robin Park. They are responsible for a vast amount of freely accessible medical information. Much of their work can be found via the excellent foam4gp blog.
It is good to see that some GP bloggers post valuable information for patients, such as Jo Kosterich, Brad McKay and Nick Tellis. Duncan Jefferson is creating a nice podcast collection on his blog.
The stream of stories, confessions, opinions, experiences, tutorials, interviews and podcasts just goes on. It is impossible to mention everyone here, so I refer to the list below.
I would like to finish with acknowledging the hard work these doctors are putting into their blogs. From experience I know it can be a challenge to keep the momentum of writing going. Even though it is a passion, it is not always easy.
All these creative GP bloggers have inspired me, and I’m sure you will (continue to) enjoy their posts! Click on the WordPress/Blogger logo to go to a blog.
Resuscitate-Differentiate-Prognosticate: Roadkill, Diff Awy & Checklist Fan – ATLS-EMST Director – Quality Care. Out There via FOAMed &ruraldoctors.net. Kangaroo Island, Australia. Blogs at: WordPress.
Restricting social media usage at work is sometimes done out of fear. “We don’t want our staff to be distracted.” And: “They shouldn’t waste their time on social media.” Other understandable reasons may include perceived cyber risks or the cost of excess data usage.
An organisation that blocks social media sites may send out one or more of the following messages:
We don’t trust our staff
We don’t really understand what social media is all about
Even though consumers are using social media for health purposes, we’re not really interested
In most cases decision makers are probably unfamiliar with social media and may see it as a threat.
Why staff should have access
Here are five reasons why health care staff should have access to sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Blogs etc:
Social networks are powerful learning tools for staff
Social media are increasingly used as health promotion tools (such as embedded YouTube videos)
Shared knowledge accessible via social media will assist staff in finding answers and making decisions
Interactions with peers and thought leaders can increase work satisfaction (and will contribute to staff retention)
Participating in social media and other new technologies will raise the (inter)national profile of an organisation
When it comes to cyber security, I believe there are alternatives that are more effective than blocking social media access including upgrading and updating operating systems, updating antivirus software, improving backup procedures, clever password management and online safety training for staff.
A simple social media staff policy also goes a long way.
The SoMeGP team was presenting about social media and blogging at the recent GP Education & Training conference (GPET13) in Perth, when this great question came from the audience: “What do you write when you have nothing to say?”
It is a common problem and the fear of every writer and blogger: not knowing where to start. Yet, the medical profession is full of topics to write about. In fact, most doctors, especially GP supervisors, have enough experience to explain a range of topics to patients, registrars, students and staff. It’s just a matter of putting these words in writing.
If you can email, you can blog. But the great thing of online media is that there are many ways to present information: traditional blogs, videos, podcasts, slide shows etc.
Take time to figure out what you want to do with your blog before you begin. Here are some tips to get started:
#1: Write for patients
Debunking myths is always a hit, and (de-identified) questions from our patients are a great place to start: Does hypertension always cause a headache? Is tonsillitis contagious? Can the flu shot cause influenza? Are antibiotics effective against sinusitis? Can Alzheimer’s disease be prevented? Should I have an annual cancer test? Blog about smoking cessation, healthy foods tips, how to perform CPR, etc
#2: Write for colleagues
Most doctors have a passion or field of interest, and sharing this knowledge or skills is fun and much appreciated by many colleagues. GP supervisors could help registrars by blogging about exam preparation, study tips, or asking & answering questions in blogs and online forums, like FOAM4GP.
#3: Write about the profession
Never a dull moment in health care. We have got a wonderful profession, but the ever-changing rules, ‘good ideas’ and intentions by policy makers and the flood of bureaucracy and red tape need to be reviewed and discussed, and blogging is a very effective way to do this. Work-life balance is another ongoing challenge. If you are passionate about a topic, do your research and share it with the world – we want to hear from you!
It sometimes helps to write things down during the day or use one of the many free apps, like Evernote, to collect and organise your thoughts and ideas. The advantage of Evernote is that it captures anything, can be accessed from mobile devices and computers and syncs between them.
A patient complained about a doctor on Facebook and generated a lot of online traffic. The story was reported in the newspapers. The Medical Board started an investigation. Pending the outcome the doctor relocated to another city. This left the local community without a doctor as no replacement could be found.
A year later the doctor’s name was cleared by the board. But the damage was done. And for many years the article kept showing up in Google search results in relation to the doctor as well as her old practice.
The good news is that I made this scenario up. The bad news: reputation damage can happen to all of us. Pro-active online reputation management should be part of a healthy risk mitigation strategy.
Here are 10 simple tips about how I manage my online reputation and improve Google rankings. You can do it too, it’s easy. It is applicable to your personal brand (your name) as well as your organisation.
#1: Respond to customer needs and expectations
Prevention is better than cure. Our managers act on complaints immediately, as negative comments have the potential to spiral rapidly out of control, especially online. Here is an example of how not to handle a social media crisis.
Our quality assurance committee starts its meetings with a ‘good, bad and ugly’ review of the past month. The group looks at any problems or feedback received, including e.g. Facebook comments. We’re not perfect by any means, but this approach allows our organisation to improve patient services on an ongoing basis.
#2: Create, promote, and update your own online content
Develop a professional website but don’t stop there! Start a Blog. Create social media profiles on LinkedIn and Twitter, and update your profiles regularly. This will improve search engine rankings so your own content will show up first.
#3: Interconnect your online profiles
This will further improve rankings. Splash pages like about.me help to connect your profiles in one place.
#4: Encourage constructive criticism and respond timely to feedback
Engage when people post comments. Respond preferably on the same day. Look at feedback as free business advice. Thank the reviewer and explain your point of view. We have learned from the comments on our practice website and practice Facebook page.
#5: Don’t argue online (and offline)
Set an example. Be a leader. I know this is not always easy, but an angry response is as bad as no response. Be aware that clients/patients/customers may be watching. Avoid deleting comments as this will usually not help your case.
#6: Monitor the web
Google yourself and your organisation at least weekly. Set up Google alerts for your own name and other brands or topics you would like to follow. Free services like peekyou.com, Socialmention.com, and Veooz.com can be helpful. There are lots of other tools to watch your web presence.
#7: Correct and improve information on external sites
Most sites will update your details at no cost. Some sites like HealthEngine or HealthOptions Australia may have added your name and address but will only allow you to update details or improve your listing after paying a subscription fee.
If you feel a review about you or your organisation is incorrect or unfair ask the owner of the website to make amendments. If that’s not an option request to write a comment on the feedback. Google will only remove reviews if they contain unlawful content, are spam, off-topic or if there is a conflict of interest.
#8: Improve positive content, push down negative content
There are many reputation management services on the web. They improve rankings and make it harder for negative content to show up high in search results. Brandyourself.com is a free reputation management tool to improve your personal search results. You need to have a social media profile and a website before you start.
#9: Be ready to engage with traditional media
Have an official spokes person. Consider media training. I like to give journalists a written summary of the main message our organisation wants to bring across.
#10: Know the rules
The AHPRA guidelines explain the advertising limitations under the ‘Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act 2009’. The Good Medical Practice Code of Conduct includes principles about how to respond to complaints. If in doubt, ask your medical defence organisation.
If you want to know how not to use social media – and stay out of trouble – have a look at the AMA social media guidelines.
To learn from others via the comments she receives on her blog.
To help develop her thought process and “get some way to understanding what has been perplexing me”.
US cardiac electrophysiologist Dr John Mandrola gives another six reasons in his blog:
Doctors are passionate about what they do and blogging is a way of sharing this.
To educate; both the student and the teacher can learn from a blog.
To help others help themselves.
To give a look behind the medical scene.
To archive useful thoughts and notes.
To show that doctors are humans too. He writes: “Though doctors seek perfection, we tire, become frustrated, make mistakes, and harbor regrets. We are you. We are human.”
If you can email you can blog
A common question patients ask me is whether the influenza vaccine can bring on an infection with the viral disease – so I wrote a post about why the flu shot cannot cause flu. To answer questions about bulk billing I wrote this post. I refer patients actively to my blog.
Most doctors are experts in discussing health concerns and educating their patients in a one-on-one situation. There are many health messages doctors share with their patients. All that is needed is to write these down, just like writing an email, and post the information on the web in blog format.
Setting up a blog takes 20 minutes. Not sure how to start? Here are some of my tips summarised in a slide show.