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Unfriendly Fire: Should Doctors Respond to Cynical Facebook Comment?

By Kathy, Senior Marketing Strategist
Right wrong signDiscussion: How would you handle an “unfriendly” social media snipe? Or is there a much larger picture to consider?


Not long ago we spotted a comment on Facebook that got us to thinking again about medical marketing, online comments and physician reputation management. Unfortunately, we don’t know the back-story here, or what, if anything, motivated someone to contribute the following social media post.

So far, we only know that it was an actual comment, presumably by a patient, and probably in reference to a recent visit to a medical provider.

Here’s a communications exercise. As a health care professional, take a hard look at the lift that follows. Assume an impartial view and add your comments below regarding this individual’s perspective. (You might also consider if there are larger dynamics to consider.)

If this appeared in your social media pages, what’s your reaction to this digital entry? How would you respond…or would you make a comment at all?

Here’s what they wrote…

It still amazes me that when doctors say "how are you doing?" what they really mean is "so...how much will your insurance pay me at the end?" (no offense to the legit caring doctors out there). I know they need to make a living too but come on... some consideration wouldn't hurt or there a fee for that as well?


We surmise that their “tone of voice” was cynical…although partially apologetic to “caring doctors.” No names are mentioned, but it’s likely that the writer had a specific physician, and likely, a particular patient experience or visit in mind.

Recommendation: Our take is that this kind of comment deserves your attention, and a well-considered response. If there is an opportunity to reach the author personally, a direct conversation can do wonders. But in any event, an open response (mindful of patient privacy issues) that demonstrates concern, empathy and a willingness to address the real or perceived issues tends to defuse the sour note in the minds of other readers.

Selling vs. Caring…

A bigger question here is: Do many patients feel this way? A single comment doesn’t define a trend, but could it be a symptom? Considering that only one in 10 people might speak out on a give issue (while other remain silent), this sentiment could have a quiet following.

And at an even higher level, can “compassion” comfortably coexist with the business of healthcare? This discussion—about conflicting interests of professionals to both serve others and earn a living—has inspired several academic papers, including: Commerce and Care: The Irreconcilable Tension Between Selling and Caringby University of the Pacific professors Bruce Peltier and Lola Giusti (2008). They wrote:

“American doctors have one foot in each of two conflicting worlds. They practice health care, which implies that they are guided by an ethic of care. They also compete in a capitalist market economy in order to survive and thrive.”

table 1

Peltier, B. & Giusti, L. (2008). Commerce and care. The irreconcilable tension between selling and caring. McGeorge Law Review. Vol 39 (3), University of the Pacific School of Law, 785-800.


What’s your take on the social media comment? Is this a symptom of a larger, “Irreconcilable Tension?” Our recommendation is that an honest and sensitive response is appropriate. And, on a higher level, ignoring a cynical comment is not an option...it just might be the tip of a bigger issue.

For more fuel for thought, see these previous posts: Is Healthcare Marketing a Grotesque Business or Ethical Imperative?, and Medicine is a Profession, but Healthcare is a Business.

Kathy Gaughran

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