How Doctors Connect in the Digital Age: Social media for doctors

by on July 16, 2013

Business DiscussionThe medical blogosphere has evolved to a point where doctors or dentists who ignore their personas in healthcare social media are doing themselves a disservice, according to a new book co-authored by the popular physician and blogger Dr. Kevin Pho.

According to Pho, a medical professional’s failure to manage his or her presence on the web could mean losing prospective patients or even existing ones. That’s because patients are able to log online and gauge their doctor’s level of responsiveness by reading blogs, or even decide whether the physician is right for them based on internet reviews from others.

The title of Pho’s new book, co-authored by medial publisher Susan Gay, is “Establishing, Managing and Protecting Your Online Reputation: A Social Media Guide for Physicians and Medical Practices.”

The book offers tips on how to build the kind of digital relationship that patients today are seeking out. Amid a digital culture flooded with misinformation and fear-mongering about topics such as vaccinations and the latest cosmetic dentistry treatments, the authors argue that physicians could risk losing their influence unless they adapt to digital trends and communicate better with their patients.

If any physician knows how to build a social media empire, it’s Pho. After nearly a decade, his blog draws in more than 3,000 unique visitors a day.

While doctors should still exercise a degree of caution when blogging due to patient confidentiality, there could still be interest in their views about the latest medical news.

Pho and Gay argue in their book that the social contract between patients and their doctors has shifted in the digital age. Whether physicians like it or not, they point out that patients are now able to perform their own research into therapies and treatments that could, in some cases, be misguided.

For example, a recent Pew Research survey found that 35 percent of Americans admit to consulting Google for medical advice or to even diagnosis themselves.

By participating online to dispel medical myths, healthcare professionals could build more trust with patients.

There’s also a compelling argument for why doctors should care about the touchy subject of online rankings from websites such as RateMyDoctor.com. By Googling themselves, doctors could better manage their reputations on the web.

One doctor, for example, was surprised to learn after typing in her own name in a search that she shared the same exact name as an eye doctor who was being accused of intentionally blinding his patients. The doctor in that case began describing herself using a nickname in order to differentiate her from the other person.

The bottom line, according to the authors, is that it’s better to have a social media presence in health care than none at all.

What efforts does your practice make to develop your presence in the healthcare social media? What problems or successes resulted?

Related posts:
How to entice patients using social media in clinics
Q&A: Social media for healthcare clinics

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