The physician’s decision to first dive into social media can be stress-inducing. Issues of time management, maintaining professionalism, and determining a return on the personal investment can limit our use of the various platforms.
Twitter offers me a unique platform that I may use to connect with patients. I use it as a virtual office location. While making personal connections with potential patients sounds daunting, it is actually a very natural process. To many, the idea of seeing a new doctor is intimidating, especially in the context of seeing a surgical specialist.
Enter Twitter, where I maintain a constant presence. While I use it for my entertainment and personal connections with friends and family, I also use my Twitter account to serve as a dynamic resource for people in my city in addition to people around the world. Countless patients I have first met on Twitter, only to then meet me in one of my terrestrial offices. The outcome: major surgeries for some (parotid, thyroid and sinus) in addition to more routine cases (tonsillectomy, ear tubes and scar revisions) for others. Office visits regarding management of seasonal allergies and hearing loss are also common.
People use Twitter to meet me and my personality (as I don’t distinguish my actions on Twitter from my real life persona). If they interact with me enough, they see who I am and what I’m about. This decreases the tension surrounding a potential office visit dramatically. The decrease in anxiety surrounding a doctor’s visit is most noticeable in the cosmetic arena. With frequent media focus surrounding negative outcomes from cosmetic procedures, patients can be quite hesitant to try an elective cosmetic procedure. With my online presence, that hesitancy decreases tremendously.
As an online office location, prospective patients can ask me questions (sometimes anonymously) at any time of the day. They get a personalized answer quickly and are gracious for the attention. I have found that the interactions on Twitter are more natural and personable than the question-and-answer medical websites. I have personally chosen not to involve Facebook as I see that as a platform for my personal life. Where Twitter is concerned, however, the public nature allows me to connect with those who might never see me – across the city in addition to other states.
The majority of physicians still won’t adopt a social media presence for quite some time. They worry about HIPAA (I’m careful not to discuss medical issues with existing patients) and litigation (I have a clearly defined social media policy). If doctors can get past those fears, the potential upside is tremendous. In this sense, doctors are really no different from any other profession and should embrace the connections available to them.
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