Just over a year ago, WellPoint first made headlines when it announced a joint initiative with Zagat (known for their robust restaurant reviews) to poll healthcare consumers through an online survey to assess patients’ satisfaction with their healthcare providers. Since that time, the online community of health consumers has exploded with user-generated healthcare delivery reviews and comments collected in structured surveys and unstructured social media, such as blogs, Twitter, and Facebook.
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Explore This IssueNovember 2009
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As the number of social networking sites and online rating forums—particularly those relating to healthcare and the personal lives of your patients—increases, so does your online exposure. Whether or not you choose to actively engage in the digital world, your digital identity is being created—but does it truly represent you?
With the growing importance of a Web presence as part of your marketing strategy (both for your practice and your personal brand), the real question is not whether you should keep tabs on your virtual identity and online reputation, but how you should do it.
What Is Your Digital Footprint?
Your online presence is also referred to as your digital footprint. Even if you do not think that you have a digital footprint, you do. Your footprint is made up of your personal, corporate, and virtual identities, which translates into many types of online data—or “clickable exhaust”— including social, informational, transactional, and engagement data. You can create your own footprints or they can be created by another person posting data directly addressing or merely mentioning you.
Why Is It Important?
Welcome to the digital society. Yes, you can now actively engage online in education, employment, entertainment, and social interaction—basically, all the key aspects of physical society. Why should your digital reputation matter any less than that of traditional society? It shouldn’t.
More and more frequently, patients are using the Internet to search for information about their physician— and why shouldn’t they? If they will spend time evaluating the numerous sites and comments prior to reserving a hotel room or a certain restaurant, then they should value their healthcare enough to spend the same time and energy evaluating a healthcare provider. Patients are also reporting in much greater rates that information they find on the Internet does influence decisions in their healthcare.
The current Web environment makes it relatively easy to find information about a physician, whether it is information about his or her education or professional affiliations, bedside manner, or even social activities. An article posted in the Journal of the American Medical Association highlighted the implications of Web-based search engines that “make finding personal information about physicians as simple as typing the physician’s name.”1 The article points out that “the process, of course, is anonymous on the part of the searcher, so it is almost impossible for a physician to know when a particular patient is searching for personal information.”
How Do I Find and Monitor My Digital Footprint?
In a digital world filled with social networking, wikis, MySpace and Facebook, Twitter, blogs, podcasting, YouTube, social bookmarking, tagging, and RSS feeds, how can you possibly find and track your digital footprint?