Most doctors have quite a lot to think about. The working days (and nights!) are frequently long and full, and it’s not generally considered a job with much downtime or space for reflection about the future.
It’s also a competitive career, with clinicians competing against one another for the best roles in the best organisations – and this starts from the moment new doctors leave medical school.
On top of that, being a doctor is a very, very public role: it is easy for colleagues, potential employees, patients and their families to find out information about any and every doctor. A simple Google search of the doctor’s name will instantly give information that a few years ago would have been impossible to find. And it’s very clear that such searches will in a few short years be absolutely normal – every patient will search for every doctor.
So, doctors, what happens when someone searches for your name today? Do they find no information? Do they find a tweet or Facebook posting from your last (un)happy patient? What do you want them to find? What do you want the world to read about you online – and be very clear: what people read about you online is your professional reputation?
Patients now rate and review their healthcare in the same way as the public has been rating hotels, pizzas, books and films for years. And Google loves the content from ratings sites: frequently updated, independent and trusted by other users. What this means for every healthcare professional is firstly that if you see patients you will be rated (indeed, you may already have been), and secondly that ratings and reviews will have an increasingly important impact on your professional reputation. They will be what potential employees read, they will be what your colleagues look at, and they will affect how patients think of you.
Gone are the days when doctors could breathe a sigh of relief if they have not been reviewed online. That now raises more questions than it answers: why are there no reviews of that doctor, are they hiding something, why don’t patients want to give them feedback? And in the same way that people think long and hard about booking a hotel with no reviews, within the next five years it will become unthinkable to see a doctor with no reviews.
So, doctors (and dentists and nurses and physios and pharmacists and...), type your name into Google now.
Your patients are.