It’s been a while since I took a flyer on a blog post and issued a lengthy response, but a post that a team member sent me from over at KevinMD on whether social media was worthwhile for doctors really got me thinking. Now, the post is specific to doctors and their use of social media for revenue generation, but one could look at the post in concert with any industry where we’re challenged with how to allocate scarce time and resources.
You can read the post “Why social media may not be worth it for doctors” by Dike Drummond, MD over at the KevinMD blog if you’re looking for more context, but what I’ve written below (and posted on the KevinMD site as a comment) is my take on social media for Dr’s and social media in healthcare in general. I’m open for debate on this. What am I missing?
I feel a bit out of place commenting here, but as one of the “social media gurus” called out in the article, I guess I have, perhaps, a different perspective on this.
I noticed in many of Dr. Drummond’s responses below, this mention of 1/3 of doctors suffering from burnout and that’s one of the reasons (perhaps it’s not, but it came up so often that it feels pretty important) for not engaging in social media. On that point alone, I have to wonder what the real root cause is for said burnout (can’t log in to the JAMA site to read the full set of conclusions) but I don’t believe that “marketing one’s practice” is near the top of the list. (perhaps it is, but that seems unlikely).
(Speaking of research (referring to the 1/3 burnout study), there are an overwhelming number of studies, by reputable organizations such as McKinsey & Co., Accenture, Forrester, Altimiter Group, and other household names in the marketing industry that point to the strong positive ROI that social media can achieve for a wide variety of business types. Everything from search engine find-ability to new service offerings (derived from social media research) to patient referrals have been attributed to social media in the healthcare space.)
This article sounds, at least to me, like the same argument “social media gurus” use on unsuspecting prospects to coax them into social media. They position it as some stand-alone magical thing (it’s not) that will perform miracles for one’s business (or practice, in this case) (it won’t) and divorce it from an overall business and marketing strategy. (it’s but a mere set of channels, from one point of view). Social media, from the perspective of someone concerned with growing their practice or business, is simply a set of tools that one can use to achieve that end and is a function of marketing. More to the point, marketing, as a whole, is something that we see enjoying wide use with very positive results by many Dr’s, hospitals, chiropractors, specialty medical groups and others in the healthcare realm.
That said, social business, which is more than simply an elevated form of social media, is having a real impact on how consumers interact with one another online and has already proven it’s ROI for countless businesses of all types, though that doesn’t mean it’s right for every organization. However, as some of the commenters have pointed out, “the patients are in social media” and by extension, providers of the very health care that they’re conversing about could benefit from “being in the conversation” for the purposes of connecting with patients (prospects), market research, awareness and brand building, and so forth. (with full adherence to HIPAA regulations and so forth)
Perhaps social media is not right for every Dr. or medical practice. There’s no doubt about that, just as it’s not right for every business. The same can be said for the multiples of marketing channels and tactics available to help build one’s business. Many Dr’s still feel (at least many that we talk to) that TV advertising is simply not for medical professionals (we’ve been told that “only bad doctors resort to TV), yet we see all of the hospital systems in our area, many other healthcare providers and countless specialists and allied health professionalism like dentists advertising on TV with great positive effects. Perhaps that article could have been written about TV? A Dr. shouldn’t have to add shooting numerous takes of a TV commercial to his/her already high stress level.
At the end of the day, the decision to use social media should not be predicated on being coaxed into the medium by a social media guru, book or any other source but rather guided by a strategic need to grow one’s practice, brand, better understand patient communities or any one of the many objectives that social media can help achieve. If none of those needs exist (practice is over-booked, doctors are already burned out, etc.) then marketing, and by extension, social media, isn’t something that I, or any self-respecting consultant would recommend. “If it ain’t broke, don’t break it,” so to speak.
Finally, when a healthcare client (we have several) calls wanting to engage in social media, we apply the same tests of strategy (and sanity) to their business as we do all others. We work from the level of business strategy, to marketing objectives and finally down to social media execution (if it’s deemed appropriate for the clients’ unique needs) to ensure the best opportunity for success. For what it’s worth, we have yet to hear of any medical practice that we’ve worked with or spoken with where social media was deemed a complete waste of time holding no ROI for the practice and contributing to the burnout of anyone on the staff, let alone the Dr.