When parents seek answers to medical questions online, you hope they find accurate
information from a reliable source. But have you ever thought about what they will
discover if they put your name into a search engine?
If you haven’t, you better start now, said Bryan Vartabedian, MD, FAAP, a member of
the AAP Council on Communications and Media.
“We can drive what people understand about us, or someone else is more than happy
to do it for us,” he said.
Dr. Vartabedian will advise pediatricians on how to take charge of their online presence
during a session titled “The Public Pediatrician: Practical Strategies for Mastering
Your Online Reputation.” The session will be held from 7:30-8:15am Saturday (F1007)
in McCormick Place West W180 and 2:00-2:45 pm Saturday (F1097) in McCormick Place,
“I really want Fellows to come away with a clear understanding that looking after
online presence is part of the new professional responsibility,” he said. “We as physicians
often see this as something optional or extra, but it’s really the starting point
for what people, and parents in our case, understand about us.”
So, what can pediatricians do to influence what comes up on the first page of Google
or Bing when people search for them by name?
Create content, said Dr. Vartabedian, assistant professor, Texas Children's Hospital/Baylor
College of Medicine.
Content creation can be as simple as updating your public profile on sites such as
LinkedIn and Healthgrades. Pediatricians also should consider writing original pieces
for their hospital’s or institution’s blog, he said.
“We need to take ownership of what people see about us as opposed to hoping that there
is good stuff about us or trying to get rid of things that don’t look so good,” Dr.
If a bad review does pop up, he advises against going on the defensive.
“There’s an old saying in reputation management that ‘the solution to pollution is
dilution,’” Dr. Vartabedian explained. That means physicians should focus on creating
an abundance of positive content that will drown out the negative.
“I’d really like to motivate this audience to believe that they can actually do things
that will positively impact how they’re perceived or potentially even how our field
is perceived,” he said.
For those who worry that they don’t have time to attend to their online presence,
Dr. Vartabedian offers reassurance that they can keep it simple. He said he limits
his social media use and focuses only on his blog and Twitter to prevent himself from
During the session, he also will offer advice to keep from getting into sticky situations.
He cautions, however, that there are no firm dos and don’ts.
“Our public presences are all driven by different motivations,” he said. “Some of
us are there to draw business to our practice. Some are there for true advocacy. Some
have political aspirations, and so we have to start by thinking about what we want
to achieve by being there.”