March 2023

Physicians' Reputations and Public Confidence in the Profession

By Dr. Olawale Franklin Igbekoyi, Past President & Physician Member of the Council of the CPSS

One goal of professional regulation is to ensure public confidence in the profession. Physicians serve the public and ensuring public confidence is vital to patient safety and satisfaction. Just imagine if the public doubted our ability to deliver safe and effective health care; this may lead them to hesitate to access and utilize health care resources that are meant to be at their disposition.

Our government agencies, healthcare administrators and physician leaders want nothing more than for the public to have confidence in the healthcare system’s various equipment, infrastructure and human resources, including physicians and allied healthcare workers.

Good physician reputation is essential for public confidence in health care delivery. If the physician has all the degrees, certificates and fellowships but is lacking a good reputation, then he/she loses credibility within the profession and the public.  Even if the physician possesses excellent skills, is a good diagnostician, delivers the best of lectures and is a gifted researcher, if for some reason they do not have a good reputation, it will diminish their accomplishments and may tarnish the image of profession.  

According to the Oxford dictionary, reputation is defined as the beliefs or opinions that are generally held about someone or something.

Market Business News explains that reputation is other people’s opinions about you – what they think of you and how they perceive you. Any person can have a reputation, as can a company, organization, government, and even a country. [1]

Physicians must protect their reputation by appropriately abiding by the ethics that govern the profession, including our College bylaws.

Members must be well-informed and responsible for applying appropriate billing practices.  I encourage all physicians to educate themselves on billing codes and only submit bills for the medically necessary services provided. When in doubt, please call the appropriate authority to avoid any potential for criticism.    Unfortunately, there are many examples of physicians who have tarnished their reputations because of inappropriate billing practices or failing to exercise due diligence over billing in their practices. 

The CPSS is also clear about maintaining professional boundaries and emphasizes the critical importance of abstaining from sexual relationships with patients. The CPSS bylaws outline this explicitly, and anyone engaging in this type of behaviour damages their professional reputation, harms the patient in question, and impacts public trust in physicians. Members of the public and physician colleagues are encouraged to report any physicians suspected of having sexual relationships with their patients – in fact, physicians are ethically obliged to report such conduct.

While physicians have a right to their private lives, certain behaviours or actions in their personal lives could be deemed sufficient to tarnish the profession's reputation. In this situation, the offender will be held accountable. Members are advised to pay attention to comments and behaviours which might be perceived as disgraceful to the profession.

In this age of electronic media, it is important to pay attention to your online presence and reputation.  Social media use and presence may also affect how the public views your professional credibility. Avoid words, pictures, and advertisement that deflate ethical values within the profession.  Monitor your online reputation. A negative review because of an angry patient may paint you badly in the online world despite your best efforts to deliver the best care to your patients. However, the best way to address a less-than-desirable online rating is by continuing to engage in best practices and nurture a positive professional image. 


The practice of medicine demands a highly skillful performance in patient care and robust ethical responsibilities through appropriate behaviours in work, personal life, and social media. Members must avoid sullying the name of the College or the profession.

A word is enough for the wise. Guard your professional reputation.