Tonight, Renee and I dined at a friend’s house. I was talking about my ideas for this article when my friend asked me the following question?  How many “Attaboys” does it take to cancel one “Oh Shit.”  It was an excellent question and we debated what the right answer should be.  My opinion was that it was highly dependent on what the “Oh shit” was.  His was that one “Oh shit” did not cancel any “Attaboys.”

If you think I’ve lost my mind, read on.  As a practicing physician, I’ve seen many thousands of individuals over the years.  While many have loved me, there have been those that did not.  (A good guess places my career visit count near 400,000 patient visits).  The “did nots” tended to be a very vocal group using the internet to slash out at me.

There are multiple internet sites that rank physicians.  Most physicians simply ignore these sites.  I never could.  What angry people post becomes reality in many reader’s minds.  Unfortunately, the situation is complicated by two things:

  1.  Happy patients rarely ever go to the internet to give you an “Attaboy.”
  2. For a multitude of reasons, physicians cannot respond and defend themselves.

Let me give you an example.  One of the most viscous attacks I sustained as a practicing physician came from a person I never saw as a patient.  The individual came to the office with a friend and several textbooks and articles printed from the internet.  The person’s intent was to be the patient’s advocate.  What ensued was ludicrous, with the “advocate” reading from the text and articles and demanding that certain tests be run on my patient and certain medications prescribed.  Ultimately, I had to demand that this individual leave.

The next day, there was a scathing review of me on the internet by a “patient” that I had never treated.  I could not respond as responses often lead to further unjustified garbage being printed or worse, physical threats.  Responses also take the chance of unwittingly releasing patient information.  Notice that I have been very careful not to mention whether my attacker was male or female or anything about my ex-patient even now that I am no longer practicing. 

In my youth, I did in fact respond.  I defended myself against a liar and was shocked when the Chief of Police showed up in my office.  He proceeded to tell me that the person I had angered was known to the police and very dangerous.  He stated he would have patrol cars in front of the office in the morning and evening and I needed to watch my back.  I wore a Kevlar vest for months.  I learned to walk away from angry people.

So, what does a physician do?  Some choose to ignore the internet altogether.  In my case, my patients formed an “Attaboy” call tree; and, if someone attacked my online persona, the call tree triggered and published gobs of real “Attaboys’” were posted. Some physicians hire outside firms whose jobs are to monitor, clean and enhance their online personas.  Now you know how a physician consistently scores a 5 out of 5 without even one blemish.

There is a moral to this story.  If your physician (or any body else) takes good care of you, they deserve an “Attaboy.”  Go on the internet and praise them.  Nobody can tell me exactly how many “Attaboys” it takes to get rid of one “Oh, Shit” but the more “Attaboys” one has, the better.

By the way, if you’re pissed off, take a breather and cool down before you attack.  Then call or write your doc and present your case.  You may well get an answer.  You may even get an apology.  You may get an explanation that makes you happy.  Once you go public, all lines of communication stop, leaving you and your doc in a lousy place.

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