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Dr. Dennis Crandall There are several tactics orthopedic and spine surgeons can use to build a good reputation in the community and leave a lasting mark on the spine field. Depending on where they are in their careers, surgeons can make different moves to build strong a foundation and grow their reputation.
Published in Spine
Here are five thoughts on managing online presence for a spine surgeon.

1. Make sure your website or profile is first in SEO. When patients conduct a search on your name, practice or hospital, you want them to see your website or profile first instead of physician rating websites such as HealthGrades or Rate MDs. This way, patients are more likely to look at the information you've put forth about yourself, such as your accomplishments or professional interests, before clicking on these outside sources. Work with a web manager who is skilled in search engine optimization to provide regular updates on your site, says Bill Rabourn, founder and managing principal of Medical Consulting Group. These updates could include press releases or cross-posting of content such as video from sites like YouTube.

1. Focus on a professional look for your practice website. It's very important to have a professional-looking website that is up-to-date, user friendly and talks about your practice and what you have to offer. "You have to differentiate your practice from other physicians," says Bryan Oh, MD, a neurosurgeon who focuses on spine surgery with BASIC Spine in Orange, Calif. "Have patient testimonials on your website and new technology you use. People have been very impressed with my website and they felt because it looked like it was technologically advanced it reflected how I think about my practice. It’s much more important than some surgeons think. I’ve had multiple patients tell me how much they liked our website."

2. Ask patients to give feedback on rating websites.
Google yourself and you'll likely see those stars that are popping up under HealthGrades, Ucompare, and other physician directory sites. They reflect the opinions of whoever decided to rate you, for better or worse. "You need to start asking your patients to rate you on these sites," says Dick Pepper, a medical marketing specialist who blogs at VoxMD.com. "They matter more and more every day and are perceived to be quality. Check sites like Yelp and other free directories. Do NOT spend money on a paid version of Reputation.com or other reputation 'management' sites. They do not provide the value you think they do. The free version is great, and gives you a heads up on a situation, but the easiest way is to Google yourself and check yourself on Bing. That's what 90 percent of all people looking you up will see. It's easy to fix. Check with your medical marketing specialist for more information."

4. Dominate your presence through positive press.
One way to take control of your online reputation is through creating regular news releases or updates on your practice or procedures. Compose new releases on new or "revolutionary" procedures you are performing, an upcoming event at your practice or a particularly heartening surgery you performed. Patients are able to connect with the human interest stories, and having them regularly appear on the Internet will increase your credibility. "Consumers often assume providers that advertise are more qualified simply by virtue of the fact that they advertise," says Daniel Weinbach, executive vice president of The Weinbach Group, a healthcare marketing firm. You can also lend your expertise to a news publication that prints online. If you ask somebody about how they heard about you or who referred them, if it isn't traced back to word-of-mouth marketing it can often be a well-placed article online or in a magazine.

5. Expand your presence with educational platforms.
There is a huge opportunity for spine surgeons to expand their online presence with general patient education efforts. "I think the internet is going to be the next wave for spine care," says Donald Corenman, MD, a spine surgeon with The Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colo. "Patients are coming into the office having significant fear and not understanding anything about spine surgery, and they are hungry for knowledge. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of education in typical spine offices, and that's where I think the internet is really going to shine."

Dr. Corenman has a website that includes a forum where anyone can ask general questions about spinal conditions and he answers to the best of his ability. One common problem is patients receiving different diagnoses and treatment recommendations from multiple spine surgeons and specialists; he tries to help patients sort through this information and find the right pathway to care.

"There is a significant lack of continuity for different problems," says Dr. Corenman. "When I'm interacting with them online, I'm not practicing medicine, it's purely education. When you can gain accurate and succinct education, it makes patients more confident and empowers them in their own decisions."

Dr. Corenman receives two to seven questions per day on his forum and spends around an hour answer the questions daily. He also writes articles for the website and uploads videos of procedures. He has nearly 40 videos on his YouTube site, which receives about 100,000 hits per month. While the website has gained traction, it takes significant time and effort to maintain.

"It's still uncommon for surgeons to have a vast online presence," says Dr. Corenman. "The problem is that it takes a tremendous amount of time to write these things and an understanding of how patients think so you can write in a way they will understand. Even though there are a lot of plug in sites where you can purchase information and publish it on your webpage, it might not be accurate or accessible to patients. It behooves you to write that information yourself."

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Published in Spine
Orthopedic Surgeon Jimmie Biles, MD, of Yellowstone Sports Medicine in Cody, Wyo., claims an Indiana woman sent anonymous mass mailings last December that disparaged his reputation, according to a Powell Tribune report.