Controlling your online reputation requires minimal time, effort
LOS ANGELES — Social media is a powerful tool that connects physicians with patients and other providers and offers a space for important conversations about health care reform and education. But even those who want nothing to do with social media cannot ignore it completely, Kevin Pho, MD, founder of the blog KevinMD.com, said at the AACE Annual Scientific and Clinical Congress.
“When it comes to being online in a professional context, a lot of us in health care feel like we’re walking a tightrope — one false step, we slip and fall off, and permanently damage our online reputation,” Pho, a primary care physician in Nashua, New Hampshire, said during a plenary presentation.
“Being visible online can be frightening, but if we don’t take the steps to proactively define our online reputations, someone else is going to do it for us ... and online reputation is just as important as reputation in the community,” Pho said.
Just a few hours are needed to create an online presence using free tools available from Google, LinkedIn and physician rating sites, Pho said. Using more platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs and YouTube, can expand your presence and further enhance your online reputation.
Pho recommends searching your name on Google at least once a week to see what patients are reading about you.
Increasingly, patients find a new physician by searching online for “physicians near me” or a provider’s name. Most consumers look only at the first page of results, so the key to controlling your reputation online is to control what appears in those top listings, Pho said. The best way to do that, according to Pho, is to create content that ranks high on Google.
Create basic content
Start by writing a brief, accurate description of yourself and your practice that conveys “likeability, trustworthiness and competence,” Pho advised. This will be your introduction to anyone who finds you on the web. Then locate a high-resolution professional headshot photo of yourself. This should not be cropped from a larger image or an action shot.
Include these two elements on every platform you use online.
Claim your profile
Next, go to an existing physician rating site and find your name. Fill in your bio and photo and add any other personal information you want people to know about you professionally. These sites spend heavily on search engine optimization and typically appear among first search results, Pho said.
Then, create a professional social networking profile on a site such as LinkedIn or Doximity.
“Profiles on these sites are no more than a digital translation of your CV,” Pho said.
Add your practice information to Google with its free Google My Business tool to make your contact information, address, website and specific information easy for patients to find.
“All of these things should take no more than a few hours to do, and after doing them, stop,” Pho said. “Ask yourself, what are my goals on social media? Is it educating patients? Is it connecting with and learning from colleagues? Is it advocating for a cause or debating health care reform? And as you gradually get more comfortable being visible online, you can incrementally adopt social media platforms that fit those goals.”
Participate a little or a lot
Add a Twitter profile and follow whoever interests you. You can stop at reading tweets. “You don’t have to contribute a thing,” Pho said.
Minimal effort is required for sharing interesting information on Facebook. Beyond that, blogging and creating content for YouTube and other platforms can give you a powerful voice to influence policy and patient education, Pho said.
“The goal, remember, is to dominate the search engine rankings for your name so you’re in control of the information that comes up when patients Google you. If your online presence is big enough, you can use it to help patients find you,” Pho said.
“Connecting with patients online needs to be a health care imperative for the 21st century,” Pho said. “Social media gives us powerful tools not only to connect, but also to preserve and strengthen our relationships with patients.” – Jill Rollet
Pho K. Social media and the physician. Presented at: AACE Annual Scientific and Clinical Congress; April 24-28, 2019; Los Angeles.
Disclosure: Pho reports he is founder of KevinMD.com.