For U.S. physicians and other healthcare providers, social media is quickly growing in importance as an informational, educational and marketing vehicle. But few doctors are taking advantage of these new opportunities to build practices, improve reputations and create online communities, according to speakers at the “Connecting Healthcare + Social Media Conference,” held May 17-18 in New York City.
Today, many busy physicians, therapists, hospitals and other providers lack the time or knowledge to use social media effectively. But overcoming those challenges can help providers connect with their patients - particularly children, teens, parents and other young adults who use Facebook, YouTube and other online sites on a daily basis.
Writing an online blog, developing a Facebook page, posting videos on YouTube or regular “tweeting” on Twitter can increase a physician’s online visibility in ways that weren’t possible back in the days of the “Yellow Pages.” In that regard, social media can be a powerful multimedia marketing channel with minimal costs. For instance, a physician could post a two-minute video about a frequently performed procedure on YouTube or record a brief audio podcast that could be downloaded from her website. A physical therapist could explain why certain exercises are good - or bad - for rehabbing a knee after surgery, and a medical laboratory could explain the importance of a new blood test.
Blogging is an excellent tool for physicians to offer their opinions about new medications, surgical procedures, or the challenges facing the healthcare industry. It can build awareness and boost a physician’s reputation, providing an opportunity to build a practice in the local community.
Some social media sites, including LinkedIn and Facebook, also allow physicians to gather as a community, sharing their own stories and seeing how their views on timely issues align with other practitioners. It’s also a quick way to learn from other physicians without having to attend a seminar or conference.
Over the next decade, more and more Americans will be relying on social media for medical information. Therefore, physicians should take the time to understand how to use these new communication tools in ways that advance their practices.