Social media and healthcare are permanently intertwined, according to 3 of cardiology’s most prominent online voices. Drs. Kevin Campbell, Westby Fisher and Dave Albert spoke today about the benefits of having an active online presence to complement interaction in the field.
With over two billion people with Facebook accounts and 230 million signed up for Twitter, shying away from social media can leave a clinician’s patients, reputation, and business suffering when they should be thriving, the trio agreed, but success requires active participation.
"Social media is like a free box of puppies," Campbell said. "You still have to feed and care for it."
A few practicing physicians have been helping inform colleagues and improve patient outcomes through social media for years by blogging, tweeting or sharing their thoughts on Facebook. According to a study by the J. General Medical Journal, only 2% of medical professionals use Facebook and Twitter for work-related purposes, while 94% of medical students do. For both groups the user’s median age was in the late 30s, suggesting that the potential audience is in the early- to mid-stages of their careers, financially capable and engaged in society.
"Social media is important, it’s here to stay," Campbell said. "We can’t stick our heads in the sand any longer."
Social media sites are eager to get more users and boost their traffic, but for professionals it can be daunting to figure out how to jump into the conversation.
The panel today offered a few tips on how doctors can use their social media networks to build reputation and provide value to thousands of potential fans, patients, and colleagues:
- Talk to patients – Engage and encourage patients with general advice about medical conditions, or provide valuable tips about preventative care. These tweets, updates, and blogs can make all the difference to a worried patient who may not have time to make an appointment – and it will save the clinic time as well.
- Teach – Offer colleagues and students some timely and credible education. Choose a time and a hashtag, like #SoMe or #PalliativeCare to host a Twitter chat online. You can tweet with dozens of members in the field, as well as patients, and trade valuable insights.
- Consult – Share information. Find blogs, tweets, and message boards where patients go to discuss their conditions, and offer expertise. This is a great way for doctors to establish rapport and gain followers who will support them online.
- Market – Tell the world what you do well. This is different from bragging, as social media should always be about followers, not about the speaker. Write blogs and distribute them through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like, answering the question, "What can I do as a professional to help you at this moment?"