Doctors should Google themselves is the telling headline of a practicing physician’s recent blog post. And he’s right. Today, consumers fully expect to be able to research so-called "experts", including professional services providers like physicians. The researching takes place in two major ways:

  1. Via search engines, with Google as #1 for health searches
  2. In the Find A Doctor directories on trusted health and condition-specific websites

According to PEW Internet Life, about 30% of the 113 million U.S. adults on the Internet have searched online for a particular doctor or hospital. 58% say the information they found affected a decision about how to treat an illness or condition. I think it’s safe to conclude from this that the old adage, “no news is good news”, doesn’t really apply here. If a prospective patient can’t find you online, they may very likely move on to a physician they can find. Patients are hungry for health information and are fast losing patience with anything that inhibits information accessibility – e.g., sites that don’t source their data, information behind a password or fee-based – and lack of a web presence is considered somewhat primitive. So the question for doctors and surgeons is: if you can’t find yourself online, how can anyone else?

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Physicians should also be aware that if they aren’t in control of their online presence, someone else may control it for them. Many companies create “free” physician listings based on purchased lists or inaccurate web surfing, creating physician profiles that are incomplete and often grossly inaccurate, and then try to contact the physician to edit that listing (for a fee). As in any profession, legal action against doctors is a hot topic, and different rating/grading companies, e.g., HealthGrades, and online public legal records also make their way into the search engines. Do you want your initial online presence in Google to be about a lawsuit you’re involved in?

Physicians need to take control of their Internet presence to ensure prospective patients (and for that matter, prospective colleagues, nominating committees, associations, recruiters, the media, family members and friends) see them and their professional achievements in the best possible light. Spine medical professionals can check out Spine-health’s membership services to get a comprehensive physician profile and top rankings in Google. Additionally, physicians should periodically review any medical association profiles of themselves and make sure those are up to date and accurate.

Additional resources: physician services

NASS spine doctor finder

CNS online member directory