Apparently Google+ Local (aka Places) has finally established a firm policy on how to handle Medical/Legal Practice and Practitioner listings that now requires that both the practice and the practitioners be listed. Linda Buquet has taken a Sky is Falling attitude to the change:
Big departure from what we are used to and this could make it really difficult to rank for Medical, Dental and Legal practices with multiple practitioners.
If in fact there is a new policy, I would suggest that actually having a policy in this regard is a positive step in the right direction. In the past some practices wanted to show just the practice (and they suffered from dupes) and some practices wanted to show the practice and practitioners (and they suffered mergings). It was not ideal for either approach and it involved a lot whack a mole for one and a lot of frustration for the other.
As I understand the new Google+ local pages, there will be a great deal more trust placed on the data provided by the verified owners of the listing. Thus they are less likely to be merged or changed. If that is the case, then the change (not really change rather a firming up) of the policy in regards to professional practices makes sense.
If there is only one way to do it and that way involves having practice and practitioner listings AND they do not merge, then for once we have a concrete target that both we and Google can strive for. So while it is a change, it really should make life easier IF in fact Google 1)puts in place the technology to support the practice & practitioner listings in the index without merging and 2)keeps that same policy firm going forward.
As Linda noted, tagging departed practitioners with a ““This Place is permanently closed”” tag is wildly inappropriate messaging. But other than that gotcha which Google should be able to solve, I am hopeful that there will be only one way to handle practice and practitioner listings and that way will actually work.