Why social media may not be worth it for doctors

Social media in healthcare is all the rage these days. You can’t visit even one physician-oriented website without someone breathlessly advising you to be on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and now Pinterest. Yet the only reason these talking heads can give you is, “because they are really popular and everyone is doing it.”

Social media consulting is a bubble economy at the moment.

Don’t listen to them.

1. There is no return on investment (ROI)

If you are a clinician who is paid by your patient’s insurance company for the services you provide, I challenge any social media consultant to show you how a Facebook post or Twitter tweet produces any additional income for you. Remember, no one pays you to login and post on Facebook. You would have to be posting something that actually causes more patients to come into the office where you can see them and charge for your services.

Before you do anything on social media, I encourage you to understand exactly how you generate a return on that investment of time and energy.

2. It’s just one more thing to burn you out

With studies consistently showing 1 in 3 doctors burned out on any given office day, adding the learning curve of just one of these social media sites could be the last straw in your workload. And the social media consultants never recommend you do just one. They always recommend a “strategy” and list the sites in groups of three and four as I have above.

I can tell you from direct experience that each site has its own learning curve, technology and culture. Facebook is very different from Twitter or Pinterest, and any one of them can be overwhelming to an already busy physician.

If you are bordering on overworked — like most docs I know — and you get a spare hour in your schedule, my suggestion is you go have a nice lunch with your significant other (or your kids) and leave Twitter to Ashton Kutcher.

3. It’s a fad, it’s a bubble, it’s not worth it … unless one of these apply

a) One situation where social media outreach might be worthwhile is if your practice (or a significant portion of it) consists of products or services the client pays cash for. In this instance, your Facebook post of a special offer might just drive more clients and dollars in the door. This is exactly how a restaurant uses Twitter and why social media makes a lot more sense for a restaurateur than an MD.

b) You have a lot of spare time and don’t care about money. In other words, it is a hobby.

If you are the typical doctor in the typical medical practice, there is no business case for social media, there is no ROI, and the additional workload and expectations could worsen the amount of stress you are under. That’s three strikes by my reckoning.

So the next time a “guru” of social media tells you the five sites you should be on (and there will be two more in the next 18 months, I guarantee it), you can say, “Thanks, but no thanks,” and get back to taking good care of your patients and spending time with your family instead.

Dike Drummond is a family physician and provides burnout prevention and treatment services for healthcare professionals at his site, The Happy MD.

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