Business of Medicine


The Social Doctor

Five ways to use social media to your advantage:

  1. A new practice can use social media to help build a positive reputation and increase visibility. Many patients use social media and online reviews to help them find physicians. Ensuring that physicians in a new practice have a presence on physician review sites enhances the likelihood that the physicians will be visible to patients searching online for healthcare providers.
  2. Physicians can use Twitter, Facebook or other social media sites to provide health tips for patients. Physicians who offer good advice may experience a growth in their practice as their social media postings become popular.
  3. Physicians can use social media to share educational material and/or promote medical events and news alerts about medical issues. This will increase the visibility of the physician’s practice and could also result in the growth of their practice. 
  4. Physicians can use social media to find out what issues are of greatest concern to their patients and get feedback from patients about their practice. This information can help physicians tailor their practice to meet the specific needs of their patients which improves the likelihood that the practice will receive good patient satisfaction scores.
  5. Physicians can connect with other healthcare providers through social media. Networking in this manner can not only provide physicians with a sounding board for medical issues, but can also lead to the development of collaborative relationships.

Ten tips on managing your online reputation and responding to online comments:

  • Don’t violate HIPAA. Avoid engaging patients on social media in a manner that violates HIPAA. Although patients are not governed by privacy laws, physicians are obligated to abide by HIPAA and other privacy laws. Even if a patient initiates an online conversation, you could violate HIPAA by responding to their comments. In addition, never copy unauthorized persons on secure messages sent to patients.
  • Don’t take comments personally or respond to online comments in a defensive manner. Even if a patient’s comment includes insults, don’t respond by insulting the patient.
  • Don’t delete online comments posted by patients as this may cause the patient to retaliate on a larger scale, with even more damaging comments. Instead, acknowledge the patient’s concerns, make it clear that you intend to work on resolving the issues raised, and take the dialogue offline
  • Be aware of the popular websites that provide physician reviews, (e.g. Healthgrades,, ZocDoc, WebMD, Rate MDs, Yelp and Angie’s List), and periodically check what is being said about you online. Ensure that your profile on physician review sites contains accurate information.
  • Remain calm and collected when responding to online comments. Think through responses carefully, gather information before engaging patients and ensure that your communication with patients is documented. Any comments posted on the internet can be misinterpreted/misquoted and used against you. Before posting, consider how the information could be interpreted and weigh the possibility of a comment becoming damaging if taken out of context.
  • Encourage patients with whom you have a good rapport to write reviews. This will make lone bad reviews not stand out as much. Having more positive reviews than negative reviews will work in your favor.
  • Have a dedicated site for your practice highlighting the strengths. All information should be accurate and unbiased.  
  • When fraudulent or malicious claims are made online that could cause serious harm to your reputation or practice, contact the website and report the content as inaccurate. Where there is a clear deliberate intent to be malicious the comment may be removed.
  • Take your patients’ complaints seriously and view patient reviews as an opportunity to improve your practice. Apologize to patients for any inconvenience experienced and take steps to correct the issues identified in a timely fashion.
  • Work towards resolving issues in an amicable manner. Do not sue a patient unless a false allegation is serious enough to permanently defame your character or put you at risk for criminal charges.



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The information provided in this resource does not constitute legal, medical or any other professional advice, nor does it establish a standard of care. This resource has been created as an aid to you in your practice. The ultimate decision on how to use the information provided rests solely with you, the PolicyOwner.