3 reasons to create ‘social physicians’ at your community hospital

Learn three easy ways to get started.

With the onslaught of social media, your physicians, too, can start using technology to engage with patients and to offer themselves as a resource to the community.

“Physicians have limited time and sometimes lack the knowledge, but even simple interactions on the Web can have a multitude of benefits for both your physicians and your community hospital.”

Why physicians use social media

Bunny Ellerin, founder of Ellerin Health Media, explores why doctors use social media in her new white paper publication, “The Social Physician.” After interviewing 10 physicians across the nation, Ellerin says doctors use technology:

  • To improve patient care: Physicians recognize that patients have access to a multitude of irrelevant and inaccurate information on the Web, so some use social media to provide patients with trusted and valid content from medical professionals.
  • To make themselves easy to relate to: There is a long-standing stigma that physicians should maintain personal distance from patients. By interacting with patients on such a personal, informal level through social media, physicians “invite patients into their world” and make themselves more approachable.
  • To participate: The ability to give opinions and views used to be available only to medical journalists, but now every physician is capable of expressing his ideas on healthcare practices, procedures and other medical issues through social media.

Easy ways to get started

Looking for ways to get your physicians started on social media? Encourage them to:

  • Create a Facebook page: Facebook allows the physician to establish a personal identity on the web and connect on a human level, with the capability to share health and event offerings.
  • Open a Twitter account: Twitter enables easy status updates-even throughout the workday, the physician can easily post comments and links and share bits of information with patients without losing much time.
  • Start blogging: Although blogging can be a bigger time investment, center on your physicians’ strengths-if some of them enjoy writing and offering opinions and advice, suggest they start a blog. It would be helpful to have a few reliable physicians’ blogs to which you could refer patients for updated medical insights and opinions. Two great, free blogging sites are www.wordpress.com and Google’s official blog, www.blogspot.com.

Benefits to your community hospital

With your physicians actively participating in outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and blogging sites, your community hospital will indirectly improve its:

  • Presence on the Web: The Internet is quickly becoming the public’s go-to place for information. Your physicians-who are associated with your community hospital-will be an online reference for your patients. This will spread the good work and reputation of your institution in the online community.
  • Doctor-patient relations: Social media enable physicians and patients to connect in a less structured environment. Patients may be less intimidated to post their medical questions on a physician’s blog or to “tweet” some comments on Twitter than to speak to a physican in person.

Successful social physicians

Ellerin found many successful social physicians in her research:

  • Dr. Stephen Lemon , an Omaha-based medical oncologist in private practice, launched his first website in 1998 and plans to launch CancerLifeCenter.com, on which he plans to-among other things-blog about oncology topics.
  • Jonathan Vitale , a fourth-year medical student in Eria, Penn., avidly uses Twitter to reach his 1,400 followers as @DrJonathan. His tweets are short and don’t take much time, but he’s gathered a loyal following, who look to him as a role model for health.
  • Dr. Kevin Pho is a regular blogger. His blog generates over 300,000 page views a month and includes over 130 contributors in addition to Dr. Pho. If your physicians desire to start a blog, Dr. Pho’s articles will show them how to put context around medical news from a physician’s viewpoint.

What are your providers doing in social media these days?

Stacy Carter is partner and creative director at ABZ Design Group. You can read the ABZ Design Group blog here.

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