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Time is a precious commodity for most physicians, but many are now opting to set aside a few hours a week to establish and maintain a social media presence.
Physicians use public social media platforms to engage and educate
So how can online networking sites benefit doctors?
Social platforms like Facebook offer physicians an accessible way to communicate directly with the people in their communities. Posting a few family photos and a favorite quote can effectively ‘humanize’ a doctor by providing a glimpse into his or her personal life and values.
A business Facebook page can also serve as an extension of a professional practice website – offering a convenient space (that often appears prominently in Google search results) to post office hours, services offered, and contact information at a glance.
Equally important is the need for clinical expertise and knowledge sharing to help improve patients' health literacy.
In an era when many people attempt to diagnose themselves online before consulting an expert, it’s crucial that trained physicians participate in the public conversation to help counteract the vast amount of specious health information and advice found on social posts, blogs, and message boards.
Creating a personal brand can help medical professionals manage their online reputation
Online consumer reviews are not just for restaurants anymore. Patients can post reviews and ratings for their doctors on Facebook, Google, Yelp, and any number of other sites.
Healthcare systems have also started to develop and implement their own ratings systems, hosted on their external websites, to increase transparency and help build trust among patients. This approach also allows hospital administrators to choose the methodology used to generate ratings and determine which data is most relevant.
Because web ratings have become so ubiquitous, many physicians have proactively created an online brand to help alleviate any critical or inaccurate reviews.
Those who do not have the time or inclination to friend request, tweet, and post on a daily basis can outsource the effort – several enterprising companies now offer services designed to monitor and manage busy medical professionals’ online reputations. Firms like Empathiq and RepCheckup can generate positive content for their clients’ social pages, solicit patient reviews, and help follow up with those who post negative comments.
Influencer physicians gain followers by sharing helpful content
A number of doctors who have built large followings on social media are able to leverage their networks to promote their own safety initiatives, books, and research findings, but they also use the platforms to keep followers in the know about trending topics.
Influencers can fill a content curator role for their followers – highlighting the ‘news you can use’ from a content landscape that can be overwhelming. A personal Facebook page or Twitter feed is a handy place to keep track of particularly interesting articles.
Physicians can also share their insights and expertise by hosting or joining live Twitter chats, where they can answer questions (marked with a custom hashtag) about a specific topic during a set period of time.
Boston-based surgeon and bestselling author Dr. Atul Gawande currently has 221,000 followers on Twitter, where he posts about everything from government health policy to new and interesting medical inventions - like ‘smart tattoos’ that change color to indicate a rise in blood sugar.
About 157,000 Twitter users follow internal medicine physician Dr. Kevin Pho. His website KevinMD.com has become a hub for the clinician voice - publishing thousands of candid blog posts and articles penned by medical professionals and students and earning accolades from the New York Times, Forbes, and CNN.
Read more about becoming a KevinMD.com contributor here.
Networking sites created for doctors offer private collaboration and custom tools
While traditional social media sites can help physicians engage patients and the public, and LinkedIn has emerged as the top professional networking site, platforms designed specifically for doctors are growing exponentially.
Doximity is barely six years old, but it is already the largest online physician network. It counts more than 70 percent of U.S. physicians as verified users - and now boasts more members than the American Medical Association. The site offers simple, iPhone-friendly tools that enable HIPAA-secure communication between doctors and patients, a mobile fax service, and continuing medical education credits.
Users can also peruse articles and studies relevant to their field in their newsfeed, re-connect with medical school or residency classmates, or search for new job opportunities.
OBHG even offers a private discussion site just for our hospitalists. OB Exchange is a custom online forum where our 600+ highly-skilled OB/GYNs can collaborate, share resources, and network with colleagues.
This blog provides general information and discussion about healthcare-related subjects. The content and linked materials provided are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader is an expectant mother with a medical concern, she should consult with an appropriately licensed physician or healthcare provider.
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