My wife’s OB/GYN practice, with a bit of help from yours truly, is in the process of redesigning their website. We recently discussed gathering testimonials about the doctors for use on the site, and that seemingly simple, solid idea opened up a small can of worms.
The doctors were fired up to send out an email or letter to a list of patients and collect testimonials for use directly on the site. I asked if they might be better off asking satisfied patients to review the practice on Yelp or Google Places (or Google’s new Hotpot). On-site testimonials are nice, but now that we know that positive/negative reviews are even part of Google’s ranking algorithms, a portfolio of (hopefully positive) off-site reviews is more than a luxury — it’s a necessity.
However, asking for testimonials for a medical practice is a little more sensitive than for, say, the local coffee shop. Confidentiality is, of course, vital, and a couple of the doctors were even uneasy with the idea of asking patients for testimonials. Could they repurpose thank-you notes? Would asking patients to review them on a social media property like Yelp or Facebook create unforeseen privacy issues down the road? After some quick & dirty research, it turns out the FTC issued revised online guidelines in 2009 and there can also be state-specific guidelines specific to medical practices.
Finally, even the best doctors have to deal with the occasional disgruntled patient, and the Web gives those patients all sorts of places to vent. The doctors are starting to get in the habit of Googling (and “Yelping”) themselves, but again, it’s sensitive terrain — the last thing a medical professional can afford to do is to be baited into an online shouting match! Reputation management becomes more difficult when the only legal option is to more or less absorb the punches.
Anyone else have experiences to share with managing testimonials and online reputation in an especially sensitive or tricky industry?