For Clinicians: Managing Your Online Reputation

Best Practices for Managing Your Digital Footprint

Have you Googled yourself lately? If not, you should.

A search for physicians' names on Google or other web search engines often returns listings on third-party rating or review sites, including HealthGrades, Vitals, Doximity and USNews.com. By some estimates, there are 50 or more of these sites, according to Kevin Pho, M.D., a nationally known physician-blogger and co-author of Establishing, Managing and Protecting Your Online Reputation.

These sites pull information from licensing databases and other public sources, including the National Physician Index. This information may be incorrect or outdated.

Many of these sites give you the opportunity claim, correct and complete your listing, helping to ensure that the information that patients, referring providers, donors and peers find about you is accurate.

Some of the top sites are listed below. Specifics may differ slightly among sites but the steps to claim your listing are essentially the same. On these sites, you'll find a link inviting you to claim or update a profile or listing. Methods of authentication differ, and it can be tedious process; you may wish to have an office manager or an administrative assistant help.

To find and claim listings

  • First, Google different variations of your name, e.g.: John Smith M.D., Dr. Jonathan Smith, John K. Smith M.D., and make note of the third-party listing sites that come up. If you bookmark or copy/paste the URLs, it will be easy to find them later. For each site, review your listing and note any errors.
  • Claim your listings. Each site has its own system of authentication to make sure you are who you say you are. You may need your phone number, email address, NPI number, medical licensing information or other data.
  • Complete and/or correct your profile. You may wish to create a master profile with all the information so that you can cut and paste to save time. Be sure to list your sub-specialties, if applicable, and also include common terminology that patients might use when they search (e.g., cancer as well as oncology).

A special note about Doximity

The importance of the physician social networking site Doximity (think: LinkedIn for Doctors) is increasing. As more clinicians begin to use Doximity, it may be an effective tool for you to connect and communicate with peers and potential referral sources.

This platform pulls data from hundreds of public sources and creates a profile for all clinicians based on NPI number. This information is available not only to Doximity users but to the public via online search and in the doctor profiles available on USNews.com. This information is already online, but in many cases is incorrect.

In addition, Doximity and the data it publishes is increasingly important to the Best Hospitals rankings released each year by US News and World Report (a part owner of Doximity):

  • Beginning in 2022, the reputation survey for US News and World Report's Best Hospitals survey will be conducted exclusively on Doximity. All clinicians who are eligible to vote will receive an email inviting them to take the survey. If you have not yet claimed your Doximity profile, you can do so and vote throughout the voting period.
  • US News and World Report relies on Doximity profile data, rather than original data sources, for provider-level data (e.g., board certifications) that may influence the Best Hospitals' rankings. Incorrect data may penalize VUMC's specialty or honor roll rankings.

For these reasons, it is important that you claim, correct and complete your Doximity profile. If you have questions or need help with this, contact your department chair and they can put you in touch with the marketing department's team members who work in this area for assistance.

Other steps you can take

  • Provider search results on VUMC's consumer-facing websites show up high in search results as well. These are fed by the Provider and Facility Database, sometimes called the PFD. You or your department delegate can update your profile here. Note that access requires being on the VUMC network.
     
  • Recognizing the importance of "star ratings and reviews" to consumers and to Google search results, Vanderbilt Health and Monroe Carell Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt several years launched our "physician transparency program." This physician-led initiative takes our Press Ganey patient satisfaction survey and converts results to a 5-star review. These ratings, along with verbatim comments, are published to our websites. Clinicians receive an email monthly reminding them to review their latest comments and provides instructions to appeal publication of comments. Be on the lookout for this reminder email and take a few moments each month to review your comments.
  • Don't forget to create and complete your individual professional profile on LinkedIn, a professional social networking site. LinkedIn profiles also tend to show high in Google search results for individuals. Frequent updates to your profile and sharing new status updates of suitable professional content can improve your profile search results.
     
  • Your personal participation in other social media such as Twitter also may influence what people find about you online. VUMCs Online Social Media Toolkit provides guidelines, best practices and other information for using social media effectively, safely and in compliance with the VUMC Social Media Policy. As time permits, VUMC's social media team is happy to consult with you.

The patient's experience is key

As trite as it may sound, the most important thing you can do to influence reviews and comments online is striving to make every encounter with a patient or family member review worthy. In today's environment, it is also important to develop a thick skin and keep online reviews in proper perspective.

A patient's experience is just that -- his or her experience. Patients and family members have opinions about their experiences. With online review sites and social media, they have the means to express those opinions.

It is not just the quality of care that can spark a negative review. In fact, negative physician reviews often are about wait times or perceptions of rudeness or disrespect by a physician or clinic staff, rather than about the expertise of the physician or the quality of medical care received.

That said, none of us can satisfy everyone 100% of the time, and today's consumers know that. A single negative review may not be a matter of high concern. In fact, a negative review or comment among a larger number of positive reviews and comments may give higher credibility to the positives. It is then clear no one has "cherry-picked" what shows on the site. 

If you see a negative comment or review online about which you are concerned, contact our social media team (socialmedia@vumc.org) to discuss whether and how to respond in a way is most likely to be constructive and that also meets the higher standard for privacy that other industries like retail don't have to meet.

Some popular rating and review sites

Here are 4 of the most popular physician listing sites: 

  • Doximity This site also feeds the USNews.com Find a Doctor directory. To claim your profile, enter your first and last name in the search bar. Select your name for the search results. Click on the "yes, this is me" button.

  • Healthgrades Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the Update Your Free Profile link.
     
  • Vitals Claim your listing using the link at the top of the page.
     
  • RateMDs Click on Claim Your Profile at the bottom of the page. 

Be aware that Google may automatically generate a "business listing" for your practice based on the address. If you need help assessing or claiming that listing, email socialmedia@vumc.org and we'll connect you with someone on our team.