Friday, June 15, 2012

Do Doctors have an Obligation to Engage in Social Media?


Part I of II parts……

According to KevinPho MD

Some physicians may be hesitant to participate in social media outlets, like Facebook,


Twitter, or Google Plus

Well, get over it.

Pediatrician Bryan Vartabedian addresses this topic. “Indeed, physicians have lost control of the online message, especially with, according to recent data, 60+ percent of patients visiting the web first when looking for health information.”

I can only agree wholeheartedly and substantiate Kevin’s observations after spending the past year exploring these platforms. Some are using it as a marketing device to draw in people, much more focused than email  that was so prevalent several years ago.  In fact it is much more effective given the huge advertising revenue that Facebook generates and their linkages to many gaming sites. And market studies reveal that most gamers are young adults 20-35 years old.

While Facebook truly began as a social site for young adults it has evolved into a powerful media powerhouse. It’s recent IPO although touted as a ‘failure’ was not.. millions of people bought into  Facebook, crashing the computer system of NASDAQ.

You will find multimillionaire medical device and pharma companies marketing a  presence and followers on Facebook. Many companies hire a full time social media director to actively respond to followers, either on twitter and/or facebook. Google plus features an even more  ‘intimate’ relationship due to it’s format and Google Hangouts. Talking and seeing your ‘friend’ is much more powerful than typing, and reading. It also prevent misunderstanding in tones and nuances in a video format.

Twitter is NOT a noisy meaningless platform once the user understands how to use Hashtags. For instance I followed the American Society of Cancer by following the meeting using #ASCO12. This is a common method for those in the know to be linked to many conferences such as  AMA12  and others. A more complete hashtag directory for specialists and medical conferences will be found at, which presently represents the most complete hashtag directory in healthcare, incuding health IT, Healthcare consultants and others.

I use Tweetdeck an application that was recently acquired by twitter. With this application it is possible to open multiple hashtag columns and follow an unlimited number of subjects in a columnar form.

Going forward, doctors need to incorporate social media into their practice, or better yet, learn some basic search engine optimization techniques for their websites. Without these skills, sithe medical profession risks losing further influence of the online message, as more patients will be persuaded by charlatans, who now rule the web’s health information.

The Real Reason Some Doctors Fear Social Media according to Howard J Luks MD, a well known physician social media expert is a number of issues.

Are you social? Do you genuinely like people? Many physicians do not fear social media because of HIPAA concerns. The real reason some doctors fear social media is because social amplifies how you are already perceived in real life. If you are a “jerk”, guess what? You will be a bigger jerk on social media, and you can no longer hide. You need to first “be social. 

Doctors tend to socialize within a limited circle, on the golf course, in the hospital, with referral physicians. It gives us a biased and limited exposure to people in real life and in other ways where you are the authority figure. Basically it allow one to ‘get down’ with humanity in it’s own environment, something from which we insulate ourselves in the effort to become imperturbible and deal with situations with equanimity.  I find myself much more approachable, but often have to remind my contacts to not call me ‘Dr.”  It’s as difficult for them as it is for me, but it brings to life for patients that we all are human and subject to the same emotions and life stresses compounded by our duties as doctors.

Part II of II

The End of the Diva Paradox

Seth Godin is a blogger and Marketing Consultant, who makes some interesting points:

As people share more, they have access to more opinions from the people they trust about the products and services they use. This makes it easier to discover the best products, and improve the quality and efficiency of their lives.

Running the Business and Marketing

Medical Practices and Hospitals are competing for patients and dollars given the prospects of health reform, and decreasing reimbursement with increased utilization. Ordinarily conventional print advertising such as yellow pages, or a professional marketing campaign with video and/or TV radio are now prohibitive.

The cost of a social media platform is near zero, no additional hardware or software acquisition is necessary. It is essentially a ‘gift’ from several well funded and successful entities that are an integral part of today’s digital world for this new generation. Despite physician’s ‘fears’ about HIPAA, the medium offers much to you.

Businesses will be rewarded for building better products  - ones that are personalized and designed around people. We have found products that are “social by design” to be more engaging. ~ Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook.

We have prepared a brief “White Paper” for the whole story, free for just a click here.


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