Social Media and Doctors: Risky Business or Good for Business?

Yes, social media has risks. But that doesn’t mean providers shouldn’t be using it.

This was the key message from Kevin Pho, MD’s opening keynote at the 12th annual Healthcare Internet Conference.  Pho is an active user of social media and a practicing family physician.

Eight in ten online Americans look for health information on the Web and one in three read about others’ health experiences (check out our new infographic with more statistics on how health consumers engage online).  This presents one of those key opportunities to influence health consumers while they’re evaluating care options including treatments, physicians and hospitals.

Unfortunately, the majority of consumers aren’t good at assessing the quality of the healthcare information they’re reviewing.

The result is, while consumers are more educated than ever before, some of that information is unreliable. Vaccines are a great example. It’s easy for politicians and celebrities to get attention by throwing out wild, unsubstantiated claims about the evils of vaccines. When they do, vaccination rates go down and consumers are hurt.

It falls to credible healthcare organizations to battle misinformation.

More importantly, providers can use the Web to engage with patients through these tools. Dr. Pho blogs regularly on a variety of health-related topics and many of his patients’ concerns are allayed when he writes about the relatively low risk of a disease that has hit the media or when he talks about alternative therapies when a popular drug is removed from the market.

In fact, many of Dr. Pho’s patients come from his online efforts. His blogging and other social media efforts have built a strong national reputation for him. This has led to numerous media interviews.

Here are a few recommendations that he makes for clinicians use of social media:

  • Keep a dual identity on social media – don’t friend patients from your personal accounts.  Keep your professional and personal lives clearly separate.
  • Use the elevator test – if you wouldn’t say it in a crowded elevator, don’t post it on social media.
  • Post under your real identity – don’t get caught in the trap of perceived anonymity.  Using your real identity provides a much-needed filter of information to prevent posting things that you shouldn’t.
  • Remember that your online identity is your professional identity – keep it professional.  It’s ok to express some personality, but don’t get into the habit of posting anything that’s likely to reflect negatively on you.

In the end, healthcare providers have both an obligation to participate in social media and an opportunity presented by these new tools. With a little caution, this can be a great way to build your reputation and it can make you better at what you do.

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This entry was posted in Social Media, Tradeshow/Conference by Ben Dillon. Bookmark the permalink.
Ben Dillon

About Ben Dillon

It’s not just Ben’s sultry radio-voice that makes him the perfect person to be Geonetric’s eHealth Evangelist, although we do believe that increases attendance to our webinars. It’s the fact that Ben’s a thought leader. He follows healthcare technology trends like other people follow sports teams. He’s constantly researching and analyzing everything from social media strategies to accountable care organizations and determining what it all means to Geonetric, our clients and the industry as a whole. This sought-after speaker and current SHSMD board member wasn’t always in the spotlight, previously working in business process re-engineering and software development with the University of Iowa Healthcare and the Michigan Insurance Bureau. He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in eBusiness and strategic management from the University of Iowa. If you saw this man’s calendar you’d be very surprised to learn that in between all his trade rag interviews and speaking engagement prep he still finds time to feed his Twitter addiction and play the Big House with the University of Michigan Alumni marching band.

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