“My Doctor Sucks” and Other Tweets I Found, Part 1

by Brett Pollard on December 7, 2009

Why doctors need to take reputation management seriously

I wasn’t surprised by the results of my search.  There are plenty of grievances being aired daily on social media sites like Twitter.  Since I believe the issue of reputation management for health care providers and medical centers is unique among all other industries, I decided to dig around for examples of such grievances. The images contained in this article are captures of individual tweets I quickly uncovered by using the Twitter search function at Bing.com.

Note:  This article is part 1 in a 3 part series regarding social media risk and strategy for health care professionals.  Please read the entire content of this post as the images do not tell the whole story.

Doctor Tweet 1

Updated from a mobile phone

What you should know about my search:

When I heard that Google and Bing had struck separate deals with Twitter to include individual tweets in their search results, I was immediately struck by the potential for reputation management issues.  Although individual tweets are almost always public, accessing them in the past required the use of Twitter’s internal search function.

That’s about to change.  The tweets being featured here were collected in a span of about 5 minutes on October 23rd by doing a few simple searches at http://www.bing.com/twitter.  Bing’s Twitter search tool is currently in beta testing, but many expect that they will integrate it into the their primary search functions soon.

Exactly how Google would present Twitter search was a little known mystery until today (12/07/09).  The official Google blog has a video that shows you how Twitter posts will be integrated into their new real-time search.  Although you should probably view the video yourself, I can summarize it for you quickly.  Tweets mentioning your name or business can (and likely will) show up in Google real-time search.

Yes.  It’s true that I went digging for negative tweets regarding health care professionals – specifically for this article.  However, a search on the names mentioned in these tweets would generate the same result.  I tested it to be sure.  That means a patient or potential patient searching for a doctor through a major search engine could come across this type of damaging search result.

Doctor Tweet 2

This person decides to name his physician when venting

Why I chose to post these tweets without blocking the names:

I waited over a month to post this article partly because I had not decided how to handle the personal names included in these tweets (both the doctors and the twitter users).  After careful consideration, I settled on the notion that this was publicly available information accessed through a major search engine.  It’s important for people to know that these examples are being indexed and they were easily accessed in a very short period of time.

Please note that I am not posting these for shock value.  The purpose here is to demonstrate just how important the notion of reputation management and social media engagement should be for medical professionals.  Whether you are a decision maker at a medical practice or in management at a medical center, it is imperative that you have a strategy to address these issues.

Doctor Tweet 3

Doesn't have anything nice to say about the practice

Why this issue is not limited to Twitter:

Both Google and Bing have plans to include content from other social networks.  In the aforementioned Google blog post, they announce similar search agreements with Facebook, MySpace, FriendFeed, Indenti.ca and Jaiku.  You should expect more of the same from Bing.

Although it’s true that Twitter has made a huge impact on social media communication, Facebook is the by far the world’s largest social network.  There are also many other social media sites that have millions of members. Combine that with the fact that there are over 2 dozen sites that exist solely to rate doctors and you have a tremendous platform on the Internet for patients to relate negative experiences.

Doctor Tweet 4

In this case, the whole clinic is victimized

Some social media statistics you should know:

Doctor Tweet 5

This user targets both the practice and the dentist

I’m hoping these tweet examples do not generate a fear of social media.  In fact, that would be contradictory to the point I want to make.  The important thing to remember here is that whether or not you are engaged in social media, people will continue to find a voice .  Obviously, that voice is not always negative.  In part 3 of this series, I will discuss ways to encourage and leverage positive comments in social media.

Online reputation management has long been an important consideration for doctors, but what makes it critical now is the fact that Bing and Google are indexing these communications.  In the coming months and years we are certain to see many of these social networks come and go, but the concept of social media is not going away.  The Internet has evolved into an efficient user generated content tool where everyone has the opportunity to report relevant news.

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{ 4 trackbacks }

Twitted by amednews
December 8, 2009 at 1:39 pm
“My Doctor Sucks” and Other Tweets I Found, Part 2
December 15, 2009 at 9:42 am
“My Doctor Sucks” and Other Tweets I Found, Part 3
January 27, 2010 at 11:58 pm
Physician sues patient for a bad online review with drastic results
April 21, 2011 at 9:38 am

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeff December 8, 2009 at 10:03 am

Brett, I LOVE this post. Fact is, I can guarantee you that the next time I need to locate a doctor, dentist, specialist, etc; the first place I’ll go is the web and a search engine. With local search developing as it has, I just add my city and state to my search and I’ll learn what I need to know about my local medical practitioners. With these new connections to social media, the information I get will be coming straight from folks I can relate to… people like me looking to find the best medical care possible. Hopefully, as you mention, I’ll find some good news stories also! Thanks!

Lauren December 8, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Brett – this is a great blog post! Being in healthcare marketing, we propose social media clients, but we also suggest management. It’s amazing how many people in the h.c. world still don’t want to participate – but they MUST. This is a great explanation of why. Thanks.

Brett Pollard December 8, 2009 at 1:03 pm

Thanks for the feedback, Lauren. I’m glad you found this useful. It’s one of those topics that a lot of people don’t want to discuss, but with risk comes a lot of wonderful opportunities. It is my hope that doctors will find a strong voice online where they can connect with their advocates, respond to detractors and disseminate good medical information. Stay tuned for the next 2 posts on this topic.

Andrea Santiago December 8, 2009 at 1:10 pm

This is really great information – I hope doctors are reading this! I recently published a post about how, in addition to affecting their current practice, negative internet information can also affect the provider’s job search, if they ever want to try to leave their current practice for any reason. Physicians and all medical professionals should be reviewing their internet reputation on a frequent basis by searching themselves on the various search engines.
Andrea Santiago
The Medicus Firm

Scott P December 8, 2009 at 3:52 pm

Great post. Valuable info for anyone in the healthcare industry.

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