Don’t google yourself?

“Don’t google yourself,” is the advice from a Medical Defence Organisation in the Medical Journal of Australia, “because you’ll probably find something that you don’t like.”

That’s fascinating. It’s a bit like screening for cancer in people without symptoms. Sometimes screening tests are abnormal even when there is no cancer. This is more likely to happen when the probability of cancer is low.

The topic of the MJA article was reputation management. So I wonder, if an MDO tells us not to screen our online reputation, does that mean the probability of finding something we don’t like is low? Or is it because we can’t do anything about the unpleasant things we may find?

The same article mentions:

But the past 12 months have seen medical defence organisations (MDOs) experience a sharp rise in concerns about growing online threats to individual doctors’ and practice reputations.

In that case, telling doctors not to Google themselves is like saying to someone with a strong family history of diabetes: “Don’t test for diabetes, because you’ll probably find an elevated blood sugar level.”

When I blogged about the MJA article earlier this week, Dr Ewen McPhee commented:

Interested to know why you wouldn’t google yourself, how will that protect your reputation?

I think he is right. Isn’t it in the interest of the doctor and the practice to know what’s out there on the web? Especially since the concerns about online reputation are rising? In this case it is also right to screen because there is a ‘treatment’ available.

Google has a simple tool, called Me on the web. It can be activated via the Google dashboard, and the service lets you know when new online information appears about you or your practice. If you have concerns about the information or you feel it is incorrect, the content can in some cases be removed with Google’s help.

Find more information about how to manage your online reputation with Google.

Social media in healthcare: Do’s and don’ts

Facebook in health care
Image: pixabay.com

‘Reputation management’ was the topic of an article in the careers-section of this month’s Medical Journal of Australia. As I have blogged about reputation management before I was asked a few questions about the way my practice has used Facebook.

I think Facebook and other social media have the potential to improve communication with our patients and colleagues and make healthcare more transparent – if used wisely of course.

Unfortunately the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) has scared the healthcare community with their social media guidelines. Doctors are now being told by medical defence organisations to be even more careful with social media, but I’m not sure I agree with the advice given.

Do’s & don’ts

Here are the do’s and don’ts as mentioned in the MJA article:

  • “Do allow likes and direct messaging on the practice Facebook page, but don’t allow comments. This will avoid any dangers associated with comments classed as testimonials by AHPRA. It also avoids problems such as bullying that may occur when comments are made about other comments.”
  • “Don’t respond to negative remarks online, as it risks falling into the category of unprofessional conduct if brought before the medical board.”
  • “Don’t befriend patients on Facebook if you are a metropolitan practice, Avant’s Sophie Pennington advises, so as to keep some professional distance. She says that in regional and rural areas it can be unrealistic to have this separation.”
  • “Do link your Facebook page to your website, LinkedIn and any other profiles you have set up online. This will help to ensure that these options appear higher on the search-page listings when others look for your name.”
  • “Don’t google yourself!”

Negative vs positive feedback

I think negative comments online are a great opportunity to discuss hot topics (such as bulk billing and doctors shortages) and to engage with the community in a meaningful way. Positive feedback by patients is wonderful and should not be discouraged, as long as it’s not used as a way to advertise health services.

Health practitioners should be supported to communicate safely online. But not allowing Facebook comments is defeating the purpose of social media.

10 reputation management tips for doctors

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.comSocialmention.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.

Google offers useful tips about how to respond to reviews.

#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.