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The Compelling Case for Doctors to Warmly Embrace Social Media

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Social media pillMost doctors recognize that healthcare’s “starting line” moved some time ago.

The typical care continuum now begins online, long before the first medical office appointment or doctor-patient face-to-face encounter. Among the chief propellants of this digital shift are the:

  • Mainstream proliferation of rapid Internet access;
  • Wide adoption of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets;
  • Instant online availability of health and medical information;
  • Strong public popularity of major social media sites;
  • Empowerment of the informed patient/consumer; and
  • Increasing emphasis on wellness, prevention and healthy living.

The Internet-related communications channels have become, for most medical practices, a primary means to reach, engage and attract new patients. In short, a doctor’s marketing and new business development efforts will be most productive when “fishing where the fish are biting.”

But...few doctors embrace the social media opportunity

As a rule, doctors tend to embrace technology, and, as users, they are often Early Adopters for things Internet and information resources. A smartphone and tablet are as ubiquitous as the standard issue stethoscope.

But when it comes to embracing social media, Dr. John Mandrola writes, “…we continue to keep our heads down, stay in the weeds, out of trouble. Don’t wiggle; don’t rock the boat; check the boxes; fill out the forms and accept what comes. Don’t dare engage in the online conversation. Choosing this path is like not treating a disease: less ownership confers less personal risk.”

Blogger, writer and regular columnist at Medscape and elsewhere, Dr. Mandrola is also a cardiac electrophysiologist practicing in Louisville, KY. In an editorial piece first appearing on his blog, Dr. John M, he makes a compelling, doctor-to-doctor case “about social media and why it is time that doctors make the leap from analog to digital.”

The full text of his article titled, Doctors and Social Media — It’s time to embrace change, provides considerable depth and insight, but as an introduction, here’s an abridged slice:

“As a multi-year participant in social media, I see more benefit and opportunity than risk. Here are five factors to consider while pausing at that fork in the road.

“First, consider the blank-slate status of the playing field for health care social media. Beyond common sense and decency, there are few rules. Digital natives—like me, and perhaps you—will make the rules. Pause for a moment here and consider that idea: making rules rather than following them. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

“Second, as a doctor, you are different. People will listen to you; your voice matters. What patients really want to read is what their doctor says.

“Third, social media can be therapeutic. It’s an understatement to say morale amongst caregivers is low, and sinking lower. What’s more, the social aspect of social media connects you with colleagues across the world, not just your hospital’s doctors’ lounge. I regularly connect with colleagues in Germany, Australia, and the UK.

“Fourth, social media can make you a better doctor. The pace of change in health care is increasing. Staying current and informed has never been more important. The micro-blogging platform Twitter allows easy curation of content from trusted sources as it comes available. Another aspect of creating content is the depth of knowledge it requires. In this way, I have no doubt that participating in social media has made me a more informed clinician."

As a full-service healthcare marketing company, you could take our advice about social media. But this personal and professional perspective of a practicing physician—candidly presented advice of one doctor to another—is potentially more powerful and valuable guidance.

For more on this topic, see our previous posts, Getting Doctors Onboard with Hospital Blogs and Social Media, and Social Media in Healthcare: How to Harness the Marketing Opportunity.

Lonnie Hirsch


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