For those of you who think the words social media and doctors should never be used in the same sentence as one another because it sounds about as appealing and private as a co-ed locker room, let me explain how doctors can and are currently using social media to enhance their careers and provide additional benefits to patients. Although you’re not crazy for feeling a bit skeptical of the use of social media by doctors, as there are certain precautions that must be taken so as not to infringe on doctor-patient confidentiality rights. With that in mind, here are 9 ways that doctors can appropriately use social media to help their careers and their patients.
1. Join the Club
There are a handful of social networks out there that are exclusively meant for doctors. Think of them as virtual sounding boards, where doctors can go to bounce ideas off one another. A couple of the most popular of these social networks include Sermo, doc2doc, and Healtheva. Being a part of a doctors-only social network gives doctors a place to go for other professional opinions and to keep current on what’s going on in the industry. Many of these sites are also welcoming of residents or interns, so that up-and coming doctors can benefit from the sharing of information by their mentors.
2. Pharmaceutical Resources
Joining a pharmaceutical social network might not be quite as exciting as setting up your Facebook fanpage or Twitter account, but these informative social networks provide doctors with a valuable resource. Many big-name pharmaceutical companies now have their own networks that only health care professionals can join to study up on different medications or vaccines, or participate in patient assistance programs. For Example, PfizerPro offers doctors a chance to participate in patient assistance programs to help qualified patients receive the medicine they need at a discount or sometimes even for free.
3. Blogging for the People
Doctors can use blogging as a way to connect with people, patients or otherwise, on a more basic level. Your blog should be a place where you put all of your 10-syllable words aside and write about health issues and medical topics in a way that is easy to understand. Remember to keep the topics general enough so that no specific patient thinks that you’re writing about her, and give advice on a broad level.
4. Facebook with a Purpose
As with any of the main-stream social media networks, doctor participation can be a slippery slope when it comes to things they can and cannot share. However, having a Facebook fanpage as a doctor can be a good way to share health tips, and can even serve as a form of a support group for followers to connect with one another on certain health issues.
5. Dr. Twitter
As a doctor, you can find tons of great uses for Twitter. You can use it as a platform to promote your other written work, whether it’s from your blog or a published journal. Follow other health care professionals for valuable insights and networking opportunities. Send out a daily health tip tweet or links to useful resources.
6. Write Yourself a Prescription for LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a great platform on which to build your professional profile. It allows you to showcase your expertise to both colleagues and patients. Keep track of your accomplishments such as speaking opportunities, publications, certifications, and awards.
7. 50 Doctors to Follow on Twitter
Figuring out who’s worth following on Twitter can be overwhelming. Following the right people on Twitter is essential in order to really get value out of this micro-blogging network. The last thing you want is to waste valuable time wading through meaningless tweets in order to find one or two useful tidbits of information. To get you started here is the Online Education Blog’s list of the top 50 doctors to follow on Twitter. As you start following more people you will get a better feel for the type of content to tweet and soon enough Twitter will become second nature to you.
8. Podcast for Efficiency
Think of Podcasts as the audio version of blogging. Putting your content in audio format allows you to escape the time-consuming nature of writing. Simply gather your thoughts before recording and just record until you have covered everything you wanted to talk about. Just as there are no length requirements for a blog post there are no length requirements for a podcast. It can be as short as 15 minutes or longer than an hour.
9. Follow Industry Blogs
The most efficient way to stay on top of blogs and get the most out of what they have to offer is to set up an RSS (really simple syndication) reader. Some of the more popular RSS readers include Google Reader, Bloglines, and Feedreader. Pick 5 to 10 of your favorite blogs and add them to your RSS reader. That way you always know when a new blog post has been published and you only have to go to one place to read all of your favorite blogs.
Most people don’t associate marketing with the everyday duties of doctors and physicians, which is why social media for doctors can easily get overlooked. However, there are so many other uses for social media for medical professions that prove beneficial for both the doctors themselves and for their patients.