One physician’s experience discovering – and then managing – his online presence.
“How the hell did you get this number?” asked the angry surgeon. To be fair, no one likes a late night consult, and I was working an overnight shift. After trying both his pager and office answering service without any luck, I took the next logical step – I Googled him. I don’t expect sunshine and rainbows when I call a consulting doc late at night, but his reaction at the time seemed a bit over the top. He wasn’t just concerned about the late hour; he thought I’d violated his privacy. Apparently I had called him on what he thought was an unlisted home number.
A few weeks later, the tables were turned. I was called at home at 3 AM by a pharmacist. She could have called my colleagues in the ER, but she didn’t. Instead, you guessed it, she Googled me. She found and called my home number, which was incorrectly listed as my business line.
It gets worse. When I Googled myself, I found out that not only did several websites list my home phone number as my business line, but they also posted my home address as my place of business! I definitely don’t want denied drug seekers with Wi-Fi to know where my kids sleep.
I decided to take action and update my online profile. In the process, I made several interesting discoveries. Physician info sites come in several flavors. The ideal sites already have correct information. The next best sites may have incorrect info, but they allow you to fix errors for free. A third group of sites not only lists your contact information, but also try to sell you something. Finally, the worst sites are unreachable or unresponsive.
The chart below lists websites in each category, and my experience getting my information right. There you have it – my experience with 15 websites that list your professional contact information. As physicians, we need to be active in managing our online profiles, so keep these tips in mind:
- Avoid the problem before it starts: If you are a private contractor, when you register your corporation, do not use your home address or your home number. Also, avoid using your home information on any insurance or credentialing forms.
- Correct the problem immediately: Many sites allow you to easily fix your contact information. These sites obviously benefit from you logging in, and, yes, some may try to sell you something.
- Be patient. Many sites make updating your information unnecessarily difficult, so be persistent.
- Be nice to your consultants: Stick with the contact information they provide to your hospital. If you have to look for an additional contact number, be careful.
- Manage your online professional profile from today forward. Google yourself now. Hopefully your professional information is accurate. If not, hopefully this information will be useful as you begin the process of correcting errors.
A professional networking site for physicians that offers a HIPAA-compliant messaging system.
This was my first time using Doximity and I found it to be eerily accurate. After a login procedure that included several security questions, I was given access to my profile. It was pre-populated with a list of all my med school classmates, co-residents, and both current and former professional colleagues. It also had a record of my state licenses, publications and board status.
Social networking site used by professionals to keep an updated CV and to connect with colleagues.
My information was accurate because I use a free LinkedIn account and keep it updated. If you do not use LinkedIn, you do not need to worry about checking the accuracy of the site. However, you may want to create and manage your profile on the site.
My hospital’s website
Not surprisingly, both my professional information and the business contact information were accurate
Easy to Correct
Hosts an online healthcare directory and rating site.
The information was mostly accurate and I was able to correct inaccuracies very quickly. Vitals offers a free “Sign Up” feature and you can use this tool to correct errors and add information about your practice and your training.
An online healthcare directory and rating site.
My information was incorrect, but I was able to quickly correct the errors. In addition to correcting my contact information, I was given options to add a picture, practice information, education background, insurance information, and a “care philosophy.”
Hosts crowd-sourced reviews of local businesses.
My information was incorrect, but I was able to update my information using the “Claim Your Profile” feature. They already knew my license number and education history and my updates appeared soon afterwards.
An online guide to businesses that also features user reviews.
They listed both my current and former practice. Updating information is possible using either a login feature or via phone.
A physician directory maintained by US News and World Report.
My information was incorrect. I used the “Claim Your Profile” feature to edit my information. The site uses Doximity and I linked my accounts. Although it took about two weeks, and my profile temporarily disappeared, the information was eventually restored and updated.
A business directory that is available in print and online.
My information was incorrect. I attempted to fix it myself, but was unable. When I e-mailed them about making changes, they had a salesman call me and he offered to update my information if I signed up for their “Yext” service. This would involve a monthly fee of $17 to $83 per month, depending on which services I wanted. They guaranteed that my business information would be correct, consistent, and included on all “57 partner websites, including Yahoo, Bing, Facebook, etc.” After several weeks, they added a new listing with my correct information, but did not take down the outdated information.
Hosts a physician directory and sells HIPAA-compliant phone applications.
My information was accurate. In contrast with Yellow Pages, the site is not pushy, but it does offer interesting applications physicians can use to communicate with their patients.
Unreachable or Difficult
A social networking and business listing site.
My information was incorrect and there was no easy fix. Similar to superpages.com, Google+ offers a “Manage this Page” option, but they also want to contact you using the phone number they currently list to confirm your identity. They also offer to mail you a postcard to the currently listed address. Again, not helpful if you have switched practice groups or locations.
Maintains an online database of doctors and dentists.
My information was inaccurate. I used the “For Doctors” option to claim and update my account. The correct information did not appear for over a month.
A website focused on women’s health that offers a “Doctor Finder”
My information was incorrect. No account feature is offered so I emailed them. In response to my request to update my information, I was told it would take 4-6 weeks for the updated information to appear. Two months later, it is still incorrect.
Maintains a database of healthcare workers and their National Provider Number (NPI) numbers.
Most of the information was correct and incredibly thorough. The site listed my practice information, NPI number, and license numbers. However, even though I found an error, I could not find an option to log in and fix it, and the site did not list contact info to use to request a correction.