A recent article from a fellow Huffington post contributor, entitled "The One Thing That Can Make or Break A Doctor's Practice" emphasised the importance of managing online reputations to limit the damage that negative patient reviews can have on profits. Needless to say this article approaches the issue from the entirely wrong perspective.
The most important question to ask is not "how can I protect myself from what patients might say" but "how can I use patient insights to be the best doctor I can be." Original research by iWantGreatCare that surveyed over 14,000 patients who had reviewed their doctors online showed:
- Over 80% of patients review their doctor because they had a great experience and wanted to tell the clinician about it
- 14% left a review because they had a poor experience and wanted their clinician to learn from this
- 88% of patients feel its important to leave a review to help others
- 81% feel that reviews are an effective way to drive up the standard of healthcare providers
- Over 90% of patients feel that its important to be able to review the individual clinicians who treated them
- 84% of patients feel that online reviews are important because they help recognise healthcare professionals who are doing a great job
Patients should not tolerate sub-standard care and doctors should not tolerate colleagues who provide it. Over 90% of negative patient comments (which make up less than 4% of the total) are due to poor or dismissive communication from doctor to patients. The intrinsic attitude of the above article is one that perpetuates a divisive doctor-patient relationship which tries to 'protect' clinicians from taking accountability for the care they provide. The author has entirely overlooked the fact that online reviews are a proven indicator of quality, that doctors with online reviews are objectively better than doctors with none, and that good communication and patient engagement in care are linked to better clinical outcomes.
So yes, doctors must take control of their online reputations and yes, this will positively impact upon their private practise and bottom-line, but doctors must not overlook the fact that empowering patients is the right thing to do, that it will make them better clinicians and that it will improve standards of healthcare for everyone.