Sunday, May 9, 2010

Importance of Physicians Participating in Social Media

This is a guest post by Christina Abatecola from the Jen Lee Group.  If you're interested in submitting a guest post, please contact me.

Sometimes it is difficult to explain the benefits of using social media because of the lack of supportive evidence and proof of the return on investment from using such sites.  However, social media has grown leaps and bounds from when it first became a part of modern society.   Myspace, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter didn’t even exist six years ago and now they have hundreds of millions of individuals actively using their sites each day.

The dissemination of health and medical news throughout social media has become more and more popular as social media flourishes. Patients are participating in social media to discuss and research about daily life with diseases and illnesses.  They are considered the “Empowered Patient.”  Some savvy physicians have started responding via blogs, Q&A pages, and other social networks to target these patients and get more credible information into cyberspace.

A report released in March 2010 showed that there are at least 540 hospitals in the United States that are using social media tools to communicate. If individual physicians participated more online, they could help to verify accurate medical information posted and identify incorrect “facts” online. This would inevitably be helpful to web surfers looking for health information. Physicians could also attract themselves to potential patients who are involved in social media.  For example: when physicians “follow” one another on Twitter or “friend” each other on Facebook it helps to organize social media into communities that are professional.  These communities will attract patients to follow and take a part in these networks and making them potential patients.

On some Friday’s, Healthcare Marketing hosts chats on Twitter (#hcmktg).  In these chats, physicians can engage in about particular topics of interest related to their perspective fields.  These chat rooms are frequented by other medical professionals and patients looking for reliable health information.   

Physicians should also take a look at the social media Return on Investment, or Return on Connections.   Social media provides free networking to physicians who want to interact with current and potential patients and other medical professionals.   They can utilize social media to learn what other professionals in their industry are talking about and becoming involved in.   Physicians utilizing social media is rapidly increasing.  In 2007, 93% of the 800,000 physicians in the United States were online.   142,000 of these physicians use the internet during patient consultation.

In 2007, it was reported that 67% of physicians use Smartphone’s.  With these phones, they are looking up prescriptions and doses for their patients.  Now they can use social media with this same Smartphone to keep in touch with their patients even when they aren’t in the office.

Physicians can involve themselves in social network sites that are directed to patients suffering with diseases.  In becoming actively involved within these sites, medical professionals can not only build patient relationships and foster new ones, but they can also learn about patient’s symptoms, treatment options that work, and success stories to implement for their own patients.  It opens their eyes to what patients are saying, feeling, and responding to.

This is a guest post by Christina Abatecola from the Jen Lee Group. Christina graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a degree in Journalism and Public Relations.

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