When Dr. Kevin Pho first started blogging in 2004, he didn't think anybody was interested in what he had to say. At the time, only a few doctors were blogging and he mostly wrote commentary about current medical news.
But all that changed when he saw a patient who said, "I read your blog the other day and thought what you said was helpful."
At that moment, Pho says he realized blogging was a great tool to connect with patients.
Pho, recently named one of the top voices for the HIT industry, has expanded his blogging platform since '04. Now, his website is set up to be a forum for debate, with guest bloggers offering contrasting viewpoints about myriad of issues.
Pho features more than 300 guest blog posts on his site from patients, health policy experts, advocates, and medical malpractice lawyers. He receives between 10 and 30 guest posts a day and reads through each one, looking for interesting and proactive points of view. There's also a guest blog rotation, for regular contributors.
"There's a robust debate going on about health care reform," Pho says. "We're talking about a lot of issues that people don't agree with, but we're bringing in progressives and conservatives into the debate. We want to learn from talking to different people."
Pho says the main purpose of his website is for advocacy purposes. Pho says doctors have little influence over health policy makers, so it's important for doctors to help patients understand what doctors deal with, politically. The site receives between 10,000 and 15,000 visits each day.
"As a primary care physician, I can talk about the shortage of primary care doctors and the need for malpractice reform," Pho says. "This blog lets people know where I stand on issues. It can also help patients understand how difficult it can be to practice medicine."
How Pho manages his social media site
Pho admits that managing and writing for the website is a big time commitment. He says there's no "secret formula" for his schedule.
He writes and edits from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. and writes about three blogs each week. He has a technical advisor for his website, but Pho is in charge of the editing and writing responsibilities.
From 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., he sees an average of 25 patients each day. He spends the rest of his evenings with family.
He puts a lot of time into social media presence, but says it's been worthwhile.
"There's a big reward out of it," Pho says. "I've gotten opportunities to connect to the mainstream media, such as CNN and USA Today—opportunities I wouldn't have otherwise," Pho says.
Pho says "doctors don't have as big of a voice on social media as we should." He says doctors on social media can help bridge the gap between the medical community and the public.
"We see patients all day at the hospital and it's hard to find time to write and be active on public forums," Pho says. "But doctors need to come together to amplify our voice."
3 easy ways docs can join social media
A recent Pew Internet study shows that more than 60 percent of Americans look online for health information. Pho says that if doctors aren't online, they don't have a "digital footprint"— and you don't want third-party sites to do it for you.
1. Create a LinkedIn page. "Connect with patients," Pho says. "If you're not out there, you risk alienating yourself."
2. Go slowly with social media. "Do what you're comfortable with," Pho says. "If you just start with a small presence, you're already ahead of the curve."
3. Follow influential leaders. Start reading some of their tweets and blog posts to find out what your peers are saying.