Establishing a digital presence is rapidly becoming a necessity for health care professionals, medical practices, and institutions. Yet something that often gets obscured in the discussion is the fact that at its heart, digital media is about people.
As such, it’s about relationships, and it’s about communication, and increasingly, your digital footprint means educating, engaging and growing your audience.
When you do this in a way that authentically reflects you and your interests, you can improve outcomes, compliance, and potentially even the bottom line of your practice. This is because the more existing and future patients trust and connect with you online, the more quickly they’ll reach out with questions or problems, and the more frequently they’ll have access to the kinds of tools and support you can offer (both directly and through your social feed) to help them get and stay healthy.
Take Facebook, for instance. Currently, 85 percent of Americans log into their accounts every day. It’s become our virtual water cooler, playground, and coffee shop. Increasingly, too, it’s turning into our virtual MD waiting room: One in five patients in the U.S. now looks to Facebook for health care information.
That probably isn’t terribly surprising: Social networking and digital technology enables individuals, physicians, hospitals, and patients to create online profiles and connect with one another. Perhaps most relevant to physicians and health care professionals here is the fact that many patients are researching providers and their respective institutions — from ratings to what others have to say in advance of booking an appointment.
But what sometimes gets obscured is that patients are also looking at what you have to say, specifically the message or image you portray through your profiles and your communication. Are you competent? Are you conscientious? Most importantly, do you seem to care?
All too often, those of us in the health care industry don’t think about the interactive angle of social media — the part that makes it social in the purest sense. Our ongoing training and day-to-day encounters with patients give each of us an enormous repository of knowledge and experience. Why not share that with a wider audience? And rather than go at it alone — a task that can sometimes feel like talking into an empty room — why not do it with the leadership, guidance, and best practice examples of other physicians?
So here’s my question: Are you empowering your patients and colleagues to engage and connect with you?
Howard Luks is an orthopedic surgeon who blogs at his self-titled site, Howard J. Luks, MD. This article originally appeared in The Doctor Blog.