How social media has changed my medical practice

Last summer, I joined millions of others in the deluge of social media. I committed one year of effort to see if social would enhance or distract from my pediatric practice.

That was my goal, just one year.

At that time, I wanted to dip my foot in the pool, and see if it made any ripples. The unexpected consequence was how much social media has changed my medical practice, and me. Ripples have returned as tidal waves.

My practice has seen tangible, real valuable benefits. I have been intellectually challenged, and have professionally grown.

For my practice:

  • Increasing new patient traffic is creating revenue for our group.I average 1 new patient family per week who came because of our social media presence. I know this because they tell me, “I am here to see you today because I found you on Facebook,” or “I found your blog.”
    • 52 patients a year x $2700 (average pediatric care for 0-24 mon.) = $140,000 of average billable income over two years.
  •  Creating information has added to my “search-ability” in search engines. All my work is available publicly and with fully disclosed authorship, so new patients can find me with ease.
  • Investing time in relevant and complete posts actually saves me time in the long run. Questions I am repeatedly asked,  like “How do I start solid foods?“, can be answered quickly and completely by directing them to my site. This saves face-to-face clinic time for more specific concerns for their child.
  • I have created opportunities to make my families lives easier by using the tech at their fingertips.
  • Selectively following leaders in the field of pediatrics has allowed me to refresh and update my knowledge daily. The lead article in medical journals, the newest recall, the updated reports are in my information stream. Sharing the headlines and reports that will most assist my patients continues the information stream in real time.
  • I can get help for my patients across the country through online professional connections, and I have experts at my fingertips who can help me answer questions.

For me:

  • Being part of the health social media and blogging community has given me a  connection and an outlet. I can express myself as a physician and a mom, creating a “professional diary” of my life.
  • I have met amazing people with big ideas and bigger hearts, who inspire and challenge me daily.
  • I have seen a glimpse of how big an effect a group of vocal health writers can have; how active advocates can act to correct falsehoods and incorrect reporting. I am a part of a movement; a way that healthcare is changing.
  • I unexpectedly found how one purpose could be defined, in such a short amount of time.

For my patient families:

  • I can actively communicate, acknowledge, and positively influence the choices that my families make for their children between the checkups. My anticipatory guidance can be repeated, reinforced, and repeated again.
  • New websites, blogs, and apps are constantly being added to our fingertips. After review, I can refer my patients to some really cool, applicable tech options to better care for their kids. I would never know about this stuff if I was not involved with social.
  • I can act as a “filter” to promote the good and refute the bad.
  • I can be a source of reliable, real information.

But what is all of this really about?

  • It’s about the mom who comes to me at the 18-month check up and tells me her child’s car seat is still rear-facing.
  • It’s about the dad who tells me he went to the health department and got a TDaP before his new son was born.
  • It’s about the complete stranger who sees me in my office building and says, “Are you Dr. Natasha? Thanks for writing about kids and fever. I had some questions and it came at just the right time.”

The beauty of social is that I never talked with these parents about these health and safety issues. Parents made good decisions for their families after getting the information. Period. That’s all they needed, and that’s all it took.

Wow.

Offering online authenticity, genuine concern, and experience (sprinkled with a bit of sound medical knowledge) has created an amazingly powerful platform, and helpful practice tool.

Although using social media does has some undefined, grey areas to navigate; for me one thing is clear, my goal of one year has been extended until further notice.

Natasha Burgert is a pediatrician who blogs at KC Kids Doc.

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