Reputation Management and Content Control: An Analysis of Radiation Oncologists' Digital Identities

Arpan V. Prabhu, Christopher Kim, Eison De Guzman, Eric Zhao, Evan Madill, Jonathan Cohen, David R. Hansberry, Nitin Agarwal, Dwight E. Heron, Sushil Beriwal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Introduction Google is the most popular search engine in the United States, and patients are increasingly relying on online webpages to seek information about individual physicians. This study aims to characterize what patients find when they search for radiation oncologists online. Methods and Materials The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Physician Comparable Downloadable File was used to identify all Medicare-participating radiation oncologists in the United States and Puerto Rico. Each radiation oncologist was characterized by medical school education, year of graduation, city of practice, gender, and affiliation with an academic institution. Using a custom Google-based search engine, up to the top 10 search results for each physician were extracted and categorized as relating to: (1) physician, hospital, or health care system; (2) third-party; (3) social media; (4) academic journal articles; or (5) other. Results Among all health care providers in the United States within CMS, 4443 self-identified as being radiation oncologists and yielded 40,764 search results. Of those, 1161 (26.1%) and 3282 (73.9%) were classified as academic and nonacademic radiation oncologists, respectively. At least 1 search result was obtained for 4398 physicians (99.0%). Physician, hospital, and health care–controlled websites (16,006; 39.3%) and third-party websites (10,494; 25.7%) were the 2 most often observed domain types. Social media platforms accounted for 2729 (6.7%) hits, and peer-reviewed academic journal websites accounted for 1397 (3.4%) results. About 6.8% and 6.7% of the top 10 links were social media websites for academic and nonacademic radiation oncologists, respectively. Conclusions Most radiation oncologists lack self-controlled online content when patients search within the first page of Google search results. With the strong presence of third-party websites and lack of social media, opportunities exist for radiation oncologists to increase their online presence to improve patient–provider communication and better the image of the overall field. We discuss strategies to improve online visibility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1083-1091
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


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