Monday, February 6, 2012

It’s In Your DNA: Social Media


Take a look at the Info graphic below…. This is taking place in a single minute — every minute — of most everyday within the digital world….  

Still think it’s a passing fad?

Still think you do not need to establish some form of digital presence on the healthcare social media stage? 

—Think again —

Healthcare Social Media Digital Footprint By: Shanghai Web Designers

Howard J Luks M.D. points out the reasons why physicians should participate in the landscape of social media in his recent post via Summify.

Dr Luks message and articulation of the message is so well put that I repeat it here, and give him full credit for this information. It bears repeating in my blog(s).

I happen to agree with him. Issues surrounding health care and health reform have become much more public, open and transparent. Physicians must use the medium which is presently gaining momentum to replace printed and rapidly becoming obsolete magazines, newspapers and other forms of advertisement.

Let’s face it most studies and experience show the decline of ‘established newspapers, and journals. This is even more apparent in the under age 50 demographic.

Dr. Luks points out:

  • 50% of the world’s population is under 30. 
  • They do not communicate via e-mail or telephone. 
  • Generation Y and generation Z consider e-mail passé. 
  • The fastest growing segment on Facebook is women over 55 years of age.  
  • SMS, direct messaging, micro-blogging and digital media is fast becoming the chosen communication standard.
  • Drug/Medical related “Likes” on Facebook have skyrocketed.

Dr Luks goes on to elaborate:

50% of the mobile Internet traffic in most countries is for Facebook. One on five patients flock to Facebook for healthcare information.  Imagine what this means for a bad patient experience?  The world has gone digital —social media is here to stay.  1 billion people simply cannot be wrong. 85% of people log onto their Facebook account every single day.

Any news media presently in business  already has built or is building a social media presence. Twitter, Facebook and Google + seem to be in the lead of popularity and each has it’s own model which changes almost daily in an effort to capture the most users.

Recently I have been in several hangouts on Google + where people have asked for my medical opinion in the hangout. Each of them has expressed their willingness to “waive their privacy rights'” under current HIPAA laws.

Physicians are entrenched in patient privacy and confidentiality by their own training and ethics long before HIPAA was passed. Despite this restriction, many patients already waive privacy when they allow their story to be told  at grand rounds in presentations, for testimonials regarding treatments, in other media and for other purposes.   Does this carry forward for social media?

I would like to ask the readership their opinions and experience in this matter? How many of you have been asked this same question, and what have you advised? Would a verbal waiver be adequate or would you require it to be in writing? 


What most physicians recognize is that access to a physician (and almost any physician) is restricted by time and distance. Patient abhor our new systems of telephone trees and triage.  Numerous times potential patients express their desire to interact on social media or email with their physician even preferring to leave a ‘message’ via email, twitter or Google plus.

With the enormous increase in ‘Boomers’ our system is about to be stressed beyond it’s limits unless some creative steps are taken by universal acclaim. We cannot wait for governments to solve problems that physicians and patients are able to address together. The perfect storm of limiting reimbursements, and increasing benefits, and access threaten our health system.  The first step has already taken place by eliminating pre-existing conditions, and extending eligibility of children under the age of 25 under their parent’s policies.

Physicians should start thinking about setting aside fifteen to thirty minutes a day to devote to patient care via social media. Some are already doing this via secure email or built in secure messaging in their electronic medical record systems. However not all EMRs are created equal and most do not afford this feature.

Most patients no longer find a physician through the yellow pages..they search on Google. Google also indexes social media, and blogs. Their entrance to your practice (other than an insurance roster) is already via a search engine, be it BING, YAHOO, or GOOGLE, Twitter and Facebook. Patients can even invite you to a Google Plus Hangout. And these can be one on one.

Internet social media is only beginning and will be adapted in ways we cannot yet even imagine. It has already become a commonplace feature of broadcast television, anchor news, and international links between non major news sources for direct news bypassing conventional syndicated news sources such as CNN, FOX, ABC and NBC.  It may become a primary source for professional journal news releases.

The American Medical Association has published a statement regarding physicians’ use of Social Media

Stay tuned…different place, different station and at any time.

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