Physicians Tell Physicians Why They Should Be In Social Media

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Dawn Wigginton, our VP of New Business, and I had the honor of attending the Mayo Clinic Social Media Summit at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. the week of Oct. 17th.  (The agency is a network member.)  So it's only fitting that they kicked off the conference with an afternoon workshop where physicians who are big into social media talk about their experiences and give advice.  As part of my series this week on what we're learning, I've included some real gems that came out of the session.

The panelists for our session are all physicians who use social media for patient outreach, issue advocacy, and improving clinical outcomes.  They were:

Howard Luks, a Board-Certified Orthopedic Surgeon and an Association Professor or Orthopedic Surgery at New York Medical College

Christian Sinclair, MD, hospice and palliative care Physician for Kansas City Hospice, blogger for Pallimed and Cheif Strategist for KLX Media

Mark Ryan, MD, Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center

Jennifer Shine Dyer, MD, MPH, Nationwide Children's Hospital and medical app entrepreneur.  Click on the link above, and go to a cool TedX conference presentation on her ideas for controlling diabetes through physician texting.

Rather than give you my perceptions of what they said, I think it is far more compelling to hear their ideas, advice, tips and experiences with social media, pretty much as they said it.  Here's some of my favorite quotes from the day.

"People tend to think that Twitter and other social media platforms offer only superficial sharing.  Just because you can achieve great reach doesn't mean you can't really dig down deep into topics. Don't be afraid to drill down, post after post, into a subject."

In response to a question about how to convince doctors why they should get on social media:  "Tell them...are you tired of patients bringing in Jenny McCarthy's views on autism and vaccines?  Are you tired of having to respond to all Dr. Oz's  fear mongering over apple juice? If you're not distributing your views, proactively to your patients, you are letting them control the discussion.  It's their information that comes up first when they search on Google.  It makes what you have to say look a little less truthful. You have to get out in front."

"Look.  If you can't communicate effectively, you shouldn't be in medicine.  If you stand back and let others control the discussion in the social space, you are leaving it to people who are often medically untrained, harboring other agendas, and on it for all the wrong reasons."

In response to the question, should physicians be paid to participate in social media? "No. You have to focus on what motivates them already.  Will they get academic credit for their output?  Can they cut down on repetitive questions in the office? Can they put out information that will improve compliance and outcomes?  Can they get some protected time to work on social media?  This is what will work."

"If you're looking for people in your organization to get on social media on your behalf, don't stop with the most experieneced, senior physicians.  Ask who is interested or passionate about a subject, and has something to say.  This could be OTs, PTs, Nurse Practitioners and all other kinds of specialists, not just your most prestigious physicians."

"If I have a gripe to get off my chest, instead of griping publicly, I look for a journal or news article that discusses the issue, and post about that.  I feel better, and my audience learns something."

"As I'm doing my reading online, I keep Tweetdeck open for tweeting and Facebook open for pasting and sharing.  Then it's easy to come up with up-to-date posts."

"If you are wondering how to handle people who ask for personal health advice in social media, I compare it to doing a public talk at a rotary or similar group.  If someone asked for medical advice in that setting, most doctors would listen, then give a general overview of the issue and resources around it, without telling the patient to do anything specific.  Just relate that offline experience to the online experience, and it will give you a  pretty good guideline."

"Social media is not an immediate thing.  It's a bit like gardening.  You plant the seeds and hope they grow."

"I often get asked questions by patients that require me to look up information on a subject.  When I find the answer, I'll tweet about that piece of information, without naming or discussing the patient.  It's a great way to take something you would normally do for your job, and share it with a wider audience."

"You should spend two to three hours a week on social media.  Perhaps even an hour a day, spread up into smaller bits."

"Give doctors the jurisdiction to talk about what they want...a research interest, frequent questions or problems they see in their patient populations.  It will improve their participation."

"Ask your interested physicians what would be easiest for them to commit to...three tweets a week?  A blog post every two weeks and three tweets?  Let them set their own pace."

"If your physician is feeling unsure about the quality of their work, send it around for internal review and forward the positive comments back to him."

"You can go to sites like to find out what kind of participation rate your posts had...comments, shares, etc.  The only measurement that's important is clicks, because that's how many people read and absorbed the material.  My real measurement is when a patient comes to me and says they've changed their health behavior for the better after reading one of my posts."

"If you want to be noticed, find the disease-specific blogs and forums where your specialty is being discussed and patients are sharing information.  Offer to blog for free, and get on there and participate in the discussions.  Have lots of links back to your own website, or stories you posted on your Facebook page.  It will increase your referrals and your credibility.  These forums are really impactful for patients.  There are studies that show just knowing other people like you are dealing with the same issues improves their quality of life."

"Physicians say they don't want to get on social media because they can't control the message.  I've got news for you.  You never did control the message.  You can't.  So don't try."

"I'm more well read now than I was before I started on social media.  I'm not only reading the information, I'm curating it, too.  And I'm two weeks ahead of my peers knowing breaking news in my industry."

"No matter what the next hip platform is, the underlying principles of social media will always apply:  transparency, rapid sharing of information, and above all, caring about your patient on a personal level.   That's really what it's all about."

Thanks docs.  I couldn't have said it better myself.