The One Reason Physicians Should Be Active On Social Media

 

Today, social media is the way the world communicates. Facebook had 1.28 billion active users and Twitter had 645 million active users in the first quarter of 2014. There are a number of different social media networks available, but Facebook and Twitter are the most popular among the networks.

Social media is continually evolving and there is always something to be learned. While there might be a learning curve for some physicians interested in social media, it is important for them to understand why they should be active on social media.

Three years ago, 67 percent of physicians reported using social media for “professional purposes,” according to a report by the Federation of State Medical Boards. This number has surely increased with how quickly social media is developing.

Social media not only allows for engagement among colleagues and other professionals in the industry, but it also allows for direct communication between the patient and the doctor.

Being active on social media keeps you informed on the day-to-day news of the industry, as well as what patients are looking for. Twitter makes it easy to look at current topics being discussed by performing a hashtag search. For example, if you wanted to view tweets regarding breast cancer, you can type “#breastcancer” in the search bar and all tweets with “#breastcancer” mentioned will show up in the results.

Facebook is commonly used for personal interaction between friends and family, which has steered some physicians away from using Facebook to interact with patients. This channel allows you to control which of your “friends” sees specific parts of your profile. Therefore, if you want certain posts to be seen only by friends and family, you may do so in your Facebook settings.

Having physician’s active on social media also increases activity in the healthcare organization’s social media channels. For example, Seattle Children’s Hospital gets an average of 3.5 retweets for each of its tweets, but when Wendy Sue Swanson, Executive Director of Digital Health for Seattle Children’s Hospital, is mentioned the retweet rate increases by 25 percent.*

Why should you encourage your physicians to be active on social media? Because their patients are there. It allows them to be where their patients are to self-diagnose; to look for “second opinions” from peers and friends; to research a physician or hospital; and to find the latest information on their disease.

Social media allows patients to reach out to the physician in an easy way. Studies suggest that a patient forgets more than 50 percent of what they’re told in the doctor’s office. Then add to that misremembering or misinterpretation and the gap grows even larger. And what happens when the patient gets home? You guessed it. They go online.

*Stats shared by Greg Matthews of W2O Group at Texas Hospital Association’s Healthcare Strategic Communications Summit in his presentation, Physicians- The Missing Link in Hospital and Health System Marketing

For more information on the Federation of State Medical Boards report: http://library.fsmb.org/pdf/pub-social-media-guidelines.pdf

Photo credit: jfcherry via flickr

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