Thursday, December 17, 2015

Physicians Using Social Media to Reach Patients

Physicians, for centuries viewed as leaders in their local community, are harnessing social media to become leaders on the World Wide Web, too.

The explosion of social media and people’s expectations of frequently-refreshed content have changed the rules for physicians and medical practices looking to market themselves and bolster their online reputation, reports Texas Medicine magazine, the monthly publication of the Texas Medical Association (TMA).

For physicians, maintaining an online presence is essential in a digitally connected world, where patients Google their ailments before visiting the doctor and use their smartphone to pay medical bills. Physicians who don’t adapt could miss out on opportunities to connect with patients, grow their practice, and create relationships with other physicians.

“The doctors who want to avoid social media should know it’s here, and the majority of physicians will be using it,” said emergency physician Carrie de Moor, MD, a member of the TMA Council on Practice Management Services. “So they’re going to lose out on that market share if they’re not promoting their business in that venue. It’s going to [look like] you’re not up to date.”

Texas Medicine details how physicians can get involved in social media to connect with patients in a different sphere for enhanced patient care, build up their business, and be competitive.

No longer is it sufficient for a physician’s practice website to be his or her sole online presence, reports the magazine. Instead, doctors are expanding their online presence by creating and posting videos and blog posts and engaging in health care conversations on sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Some use Doximity, an online social network specifically for doctors. They are generating and circulating content that has real meaning to patients, referring physicians, or whatever audience they are trying to reach.

Bryan Vartabedian, MD, a pediatric gastroenterologist from The Woodlands and author of a book on physicians and social media, says physicians need to build an online presence for the sake of their practice and their patients.

“If people search for you and they can’t find anything meaningful or anything good, it’s potentially a liability,” he said. “I think the market forces are such that for doctors to be competitive, they have to have some presence in public.”

As physician engagement online becomes more commonplace, Dr. Vartabedian encourages doctors to be mindful of how they craft their online image.

“It’s important for them to understand that there is a conversation happening about them out in the infosphere, and you can either let somebody else create your story for you, or you can do it yourself.”

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