Reputation Management 101 – For Physicians and Healthcare Systems

Mar 20, 2017Marketing Strategy

TL;DR – online ratings and reviews are complex. Health systems should participate in the online review process actively. Most negative reviews can’t simply be removed. Online reputation management is a larger effort that should have a focused strategy in many cases.


If your organization is like mine, requests for reputation management or physician ratings or reviews come up every few weeks. In most cases, marketing or PR will receive a request to remove a bad review from a website (like Google, HealthGrades, etc). I wanted to put together some information so that you can be more informed and prepared if these discussions come up.

Online Physician Ratings

The accepted best practice is for health systems to participate in physician ratings and reviews, rather than try to ignore them. Physician ratings (think 1 through 5 stars) shouldn’t scare a system or physician. They should be seen as an opportunity to improve service at all levels.

Conversations about your physicians and their practices and staff will happen whether you want them to or not.

Typical reasons for push-back on ratings or reviews is that too many of the negative reviews are on elements of the visit the physician can’t control – parking, the patient’s experience in navigating to the physician, the weather… Sometimes this is the case, but most often the physician does have control over much of what the patient review covers, including the practice office, the office staff, the pre- and post-care experience, billing, etc.

Online conversations about your physicians and their practices and staff will happen whether you want them to or not. It’s in your best interest to participate in the discussions.

Thank those that praise your service for their business. Provide service recovery actions on those that criticize. But don’t get into online commenting battles with patients.

Here’s an example of a system that does physician ratings well, integrating them right into their website.

Piedmont Healthcare Physician Ratings

Piedmont Healthcare Physician Ratings

Online Physician Reviews

Can bad reviews be removed from the web? This is a question I receive all the time from physicians and physician practices. The short answer is “yes”, invalid negative reviews many times can be disputed and removed on most sites, if you are able to substantiate that the reviewer was not a patient. If the review is legitimate or you aren’t able to prove the reviewer was not a patient, it can often be very difficult to have a review removed from a 3rd party website.

It is best practice to respond to most (but not all) negative reviews…

But that makes sense, right? Legitimate reviews should be left intact, negative or positive. You wouldn’t want an auto manufacturer to have all negative reviews of their cars removed if they were legitimate, would you?

It is best practice to respond to most (but not all) negative reviews from a service recovery perspective. It is also important to note that, for many health systems, each request a marketing, PR or customer service team receives to address a review is handled 100% manually. Most systems have no automated process for scanning for, responding to or requesting removal of bad reviews.

Daniel Ruyter - Sitecore Marketing & Technology Pro

Who is Daniel Ruyter?

An Orlando, Florida Sitecore enthusiast and MVP hopeful, a marketing consultant, content creator and photographer.
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Online Reputation Management

The term “online reputation management” means different things to different people. Essentially, reputation management is the process of helping to shape the overall reputation of a person or entity. This can include reviews, comments, blog posts, news articles, social media posts, etc.

Reputation management is the process of helping to shape the overall reputation of a person or entity.

Someone’s or something’s reputation is what is said about them in various mediums – in this case, online. Reputation management seeks to alter the shape of that reputation, typically by removing the bad stuff and replacing it with positive or neutral stuff.

Negative content found in search results can be complex to “fix”. Here are some options when it comes to reputation management:

  • Request the hosting site remove the content – some sites may oblige, but many news sites will refuse requests like this
  • Request Google de-index the content by filing a grievance (with cause) – again, many times we have to prove the content is false or based on falsehoods
  • Attempt to displace the content (push it down) by replacing it in search results with more favorable or neutral

The process of displacing content on search, or pushing it down by creating other content to attempt to outrank it, is an extremely complex process and one that organizations have paid a lot (6+ figures, in many cases) of money to do, depending upon the industry, the content and the extent the reputation needs “fixing”. There are firms that provide this as a dedicated service and it’s a growing industry. It can be very expensive, and, if done wrong or “discovered”, may be viewed as manipulative, resulting in further damage to the reputation. This infamous story about UC Davis comes to mind.

For most organizations, any request for “reputation management” is definitely a project level request from a level of effort / cost perspective and could easily run into the weeks / thousands depending upon how widespread the negative elements are.

The Story Behind the Photo

Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center - Orlando, FL

I have to admit I love conference photos. I took the featured image on this post in the crowd during a presentation at Izeafest, 2017 in Orlando, FL. Eric Melin was on stage revving up the crowd with some air guitar moves and I snapped this photo of the crowd rocking out with him.

Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center

Is reputation management worth it?

I’m curious if you think reputation management efforts are worth it? Shouldn’t brands focus on providing good service instead of trying to cover up or remove past mistakes? Please leave a comment below or feel free to contact me with your thoughts.

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