March Taking Care of Business Column by Iris – Watching Your Digital Footprint

According to a Pew Internet report that tracked the use of the Internet in 2009, 44 percent of people polled used the Internet to check up on someone “whose services or advice they sought in a professional capacity.”

I always suggest that therapists “google” themselves and their practice names on a regular basis as a management tool to monitor their online reputation. For starters, you can see what type of first impression you are making on potential patients and referral sources. You can determine if you need to modify the privacy settings on any social media networking sites you participate in and whether you need to investigate the privacy policies of businesses with which you interact online.

Web sites enable patients to rate and review therapy practice interactions with no check on their accuracy. It is helpful to stay abreast of online reviews that your practice may have received. You can use them as a marketing tool when positive, as a way to pinpoint deficiencies when negative, and a barometer to measure when damage control strategies are necessary.

While we assume our patients will “google” us, how many therapists use Google to check out new or existing patients or potential staff members – and should we? There are many vantage points from which to look at this issue. A Google search is becoming more and more commonplace as part of the hiring process of new staff members, both clinical and non clinical. Informing a potential employee of that practice might be the most prudent approach – this gives you an opportunity to corroborate all information.

Could “googling” a patient ever provide useful information for you as a therapist? A recent Wall Street Journal health blog debated the privacy issue. Some medical professions argued that it should never be done. Others said it should be done as a matter of routine. Many thought they were entitled to know if a patient had a history of initiating law suits or questionable behavior.

Before embarking on a Google search, consider how such information will influence treatment, and how a therapist will ultimately use this information. If any information is obtained through a Google search, it is important to corroborate it. A health professional acting on unverified information may be at risk of practicing incompetently.”

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