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October 2012

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October 2012

Is Social Media the Worst Thing That Ever Happened to Healthcare?

Teaser: Like it or not, social networking and social media are having a huge impact on healthcare in America. Whether you are a doctor, dentist, physical therapist or audiologist, you are feeling the effects of the social media juggernaut in your practice. For the first time in history, people are turning to their online peers for health advice. What’s even more frightening to most practitioners – most people now trust their online peers more than their doctors…

Facebook will soon have more than one billion members. Which makes it the third largest community on planet Earth, just after China and India. Unfettered by national, political or geographic boundaries, Facebookers are reaching out, sharing and bonding all over the globe. It’s the 21st-century equivalent of establishing tribes.

The threat of facing a tribal mentality

Most people in the medical community are less than thrilled that so many millions of patients have turned to online healthcare social networking. Making matters far worse for health practitioners is the proliferation of online “review” sites such as Vitals.com, Healthgrades.com, Yelp.com and more than 20 others. Here, patients “share” experiences and refer one another to their best-reviewed “medicine men and women,” tribal-style.

People with specific health conditions find others with their conditions. These virtual peers form mini-tribes that become trusted sources of guidance, research, group therapy, shared experiences and advice. Less than a decade ago, doctors were the only trusted sources of health advice. Social networks have changed that. And they gave gained credibility by helping save lives.

Numerous Facebook members, for example, have already claimed that their lives were saved by the pictures and descriptions of their conditions posted online. One young boy was desperately ill with an undiagnosed medical condition until his mother’s Facebook “friend” diagnosed Kawasaki disease. This was the first widely publicized case where social networking actually saved someone’s life. Many similar cases have been documented since then. Stories such as these make it even easier for people to trust the members of their own tribe.

If you can’t beat them, join them

In the past, all healthcare information emanated from physicians. Today, thanks to free social networking platforms and the consumer’s deepening disdain for traditional in-your-face messaging, physicians face a monumental choice. They can ignore social media and face slow death by attrition, or embrace it and possibly attract more patients than they ever dreamed of.

Today, you face an opportunity the likes of which you have never seen before. It’s the opportunity to attract exactly the types of patients you want to help – for the services you are best at providing. You also have an unprecedented opportunity, through social networking, to bring about much-needed improvements in healthcare, starting with better patient care and a greater focus on preventive care.

But how do you take advantage of this new digital communication infrastructure? With so many options and possibilities, how do you choose the ones that will work best for you? And how much of your personal or staff time are you prepared to invest in a social media outreach effort that could feed your practice well into the future?

Social networking is already impacting on medicine on many levels and is sure to have a significant impact on the future of medicine. But you don’t have to face it alone. Practice Builders can help you build an effective online presence and make the most of a well-constructed and ongoing social media program.

For more information, click the link below or call a Practice Builders program consultant at 800.679.1200.

Online Reputation Assessment

Fewer Doctors Recommend Medical Careers for Their Children

Teaser: According to a recent survey of physicians’ career choices, fewer doctors would recommend medicine to their children due to uncertainty about the future of medicine in America. Healthcare reform and economic pressures have, in fact, forced many physicians to rethink and reshape their own careers.

Other indications that came from the Physician’s Practice Great American Physician Survey:

  • Doctors are much less optimistic about the future of medicine in America.
  • More physicians now favor employment over private practice due to generational shifts, increasing government regulations and the uncertainty of healthcare reform.
  • More doctors are seeking flexible schedules due to dissatisfaction with their level of work-life balance and changing demographics within their communities.
  • More physicians are now open to alternate models of care, such as concierge medicine, due to frustration over declining fee-for-service reimbursements.

The younger generation of doctors worries that practice ownership will mean too much time spent on business administration, long hours, too much stress and much greater financial risk. For them, being employed seems safer and simpler.

Older generations of physicians were more willing to accept the drawbacks of running their own businesses in exchange for greater independence and potentially higher incomes. Newer physicians have different priorities when it comes to balancing work and life. They don’t want a 60- or 70-hour workweek.

On the flip side…
Many of today’s physicians have come to understand that the grass is not always greener on the employment side of medicine. Many doctors have closed their practices only to find that they have limited decision-making over patient evaluations and treatment, corporate politics they never experienced in private practice and contracts that allow them to be terminated for non-performance in their new jobs.

Today, more than ever, MDs who want to remain in private practice need to differentiate their practices through smart positioning, branding and internal team-building. They need to garner the referrals that are still available outside big health systems, focusing on internal, external and professional referral marketing for key case-types. They need to explore the addition of higher-reimbursing niches in their practices. And they need to understand that effective marketing can help them save their practices.

Online Reputation Assessment