May 2016

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May 2016

3 Ways You Can Make a Difference Using Social Media

More and more doctors, dentists and other health practitioners are realizing the power and importance of today’s most popular social media platforms for comunicating with patients and making a real difference in healthcare. In fact, it was the subject of this year’s “Science, Medicine and Technology” lecture at the ASCRS•ASOA Symposium and Congress in New Orleans…

Kevin Pho, MD, is an internal medicine specialist who practices in Nashua, New Hampshire and has been an advocate for using social media in medicine since the early days (Facebook first launched in February 2004). As a physician early adopter, he learned to use social media to his advantage when connecting with and educating his patients, managing his online reputation and making his voice heard.

Dr. Pho is co-author of the book Establishing, Managing, and Protecting Your Online Reputation: A Social Media Guide for Physicians and Medical Practices. He has been interviewed on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, and his commentary regularly appears on USA Today, CNN and the New York Times. His articles often focus on the challenges today’s doctors face, including learning to embrace social media.

Connecting With & Educating Patients

According to Dr. Pho, many physicians are still reluctant to join the social media revolution despite its meteoric rise in popularity (Facebook now has 1.65 billion daily users worldwide). Most doctors just don’t see how it can make a difference. But it has made a huge difference for Dr. Pho’s practice, so he approaches the topic with a wealth of firsthand knowledge.

He believes that connecting with patients online should be a 21st-century healthcare imperative. The Internet has given patients access to the same information as physicians, so today’s patients tend to be better-informed than the previous generation of patients who only had access to printed Yellow Pages listings and newspaper ads. These older media are nearly obsolete and widely considered untrustworthy by patients, anyway.

Today’s patients are spending their free time on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter, where they connect daily with hundreds of “friends,” including extended family members, colleagues and peers (each Facebook user has an average of 338 friends according to Pew Research). Every time you engage or educate a patient on social media, you are also reaching that patient’s hundreds of connections, all of whom are influencers on that patient.

Establishing & Managing Your Online Reputation

If you have never “Googled” yourself, you might be in for some real surprises when you do. According to Dr. Pho, “You need to Google yourself at least once a week” because that’s what patients do. Often, what you will see are the results from review sites where patients have commented about you or your practice. You may or may not like what you see. The best way for you to establish an online presence and take control of your online reputation is to create your own content.

Start with a complete bio and a quality headshot photo that conveys your trustworthiness, competence and likability. Claim your profile on each physician rating site, starting with Healthgrades, Vitals and Yelp. Establish your professional profile on LinkedIn, Google My Business, Doximity and other platforms searched by patients. Think about your goals for establishing a social media presence. As you get more comfortable with your online visibility, you can begin to adopt individual social media platforms that best fit your goals and needs.

Once you have established your professional presence online, if social media still does not resonate with you, you can stop there or hire someone who specializes in social media and online reputation management. Your goal should be to dominate the search engine for your own name. Your return on investment will be finding and connecting with new patients. Keep in mind that if you don’t take steps to control your online reputation, someone else will do it for you.

Making Your Voice Heard

Social media gives you an influential voice online. It makes you the expert and helps you correct health misinformation. It’s been estimated, for example, that 90 percent of the health articles on Wikipedia contain factual inaccuracies. These inaccuracies can be corrected by physicians who have the right knowledge and deserve to be heard in the healthcare space.

Until you make your voice heard, patients will continue relying on information they receive from their Facebook connections and health reviews sites, which may not be accurate or truthful. Remember that the greatest risk of social media is not participating in the healthcare conversation at all. If you have no presence in social media, then you have no presence at all.

Learn more about attracting and engaging new patients and managing your reputation online. Call Practice Builders at (855).898.2710 or email

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