Best Practices for Managing Your Digital Footprint
A search for physicians' names on Google or other search engines often returns listings on third-party rating or review sites, including HealthGrades, Vitals, Doximity and USNews.com.
These sites pull information from licensing databases and hundreds of other public sources, including the National Physician Index. This information may be wrong or outdated. You don't have a choice to be listed; your choice is to make sure your profile is correct.
Many of these sites allow you 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
Doximity, sometimes called a LinkedIn for doctors, is one worth special consideration. As more clinicians use Doximity, you may find it a good tool to connect and communicate with peers and potential referrers.
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.
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):
- The reputation survey for US News and World Report's Best Hospitals and Best Children's Hospitals surveys are now 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 ago 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 suitable professional content can improve your profile search results and allow you to build your network of colleagues, collaborators and referring clinicians.
- Your personal participation in other social media such as Twitter also may influence what people find about you online. The online Social Media Toolkit provides guidelines, best practices and other information for using social media effectively, safely and in compliance with our Social Media Policy.
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's 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 other 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 (email@example.com) to discuss whether and how to respond in a way that 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. Responding to patients on this public platform is very risky and can easily become a breach of HIPAA. If you'e concerned about a listing that you see, email firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll do our best to assist.