How Physicians Can Use Social Media Professionally


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A power point presentation describing how physicians can use Social Media professionally to engage patients and improve health outcomes while complying with legal and ethical guidelines. This highlights my Masters Degree Capstone Project.

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How Physicians Can Use Social Media Professionally

  1. 1. SOCIAL HEALTHA Guide for Physiciansusing Social Media Joshua BrettCapstone Presentation May 2011
  2. 2. Method• Secondary Research  Review of Scholarly literature  News reports  Real-life examples (physician blogs, Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, etc.)• Primary Research  Healthcare consumer survey, posted on (N=168)  Physician survey, posted on (N=20)  Sample size too small to base conclusions on in and of itself  Noteworthy findings incorporated into discussion
  3. 3. Consumer Survey Responses• Responses from all age • Broad range of geographical groups representation Age Range Responses (%) Region Responses (%) (years old) Northeast 61 (36.3%)20 and younger 1 (0.6%) (ME, NH, VT, MA, CT, RI, NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD, DC)21-30 33 (19.6%) Southeast 26 (15.5%) (VA, NC, SC, GA, FL,31-40 31 (18.5%) AL, MS, LA, TN, KY, AR, WV)41-50 28 (16.7%) Great Lakes 44 (26.2%) (OH, IN, MI, IL, WI, MN)51-60 51 (30.4%) Midwest 9 (5.4%) (MO, IA, NE, KS, ND, SD, OK)61-70 21 (12.5%) Southwest 8 (4.8%)71 and older 3 (1.8%) (TX, NM, AZ, NV) Mountain 2 (1.2%) (CO, WY, UT, ID, MT) West 14 (8.3%) (CA, HI) Northwest 4 (2.4%) (OR, WA, AK)
  4. 4. Consumer Survey Key Findings• Social Media use is now widespread among health care consumers of all ages  98.1% among respondents age 40 or younger (n=65)  75.7% among those age 41 or older (n=103)• Almost 84% of respondents reported researching health information beyond what their physician tells them; also true among all age groups• Health-specific web communities, message boards and blogs were the top three Social Media sources of health information.• Twitter and Facebook not widely used as a health information source• There appears to be an unmet information need among consumers of all ages More than 85% reported not receiving a list of online resources from their physician to learn more on their own  81% expressed that they thought physicians should provide such a list
  5. 5. Consumer Survey Key Findings • A blog could be a valuable tool, but it Would a Doctor’s Blog Make needs to be done correctly Health Care Consumers More  A plurality (45.2%) responded that or Less Likely to Visit That finding a blog for a physician near Doctor? where they live would make them somewhat more likely to visit that Very Unlikely physician  Respondents expressed appreciation for 6% 8% Unlikely the information 16%  Whether a physician accepts their No Impact insurance is a more important factor to 45% many 25% Somewhat  Some respondents questioned whether Likely physician was genuinely trying to help Very Likely readers and not simply using the blog to advertise• Online rating sites not a major factor in choosing a physician
  6. 6. Physician Survey Key Findings• Top concerns about using social media professionally were “Lack of Time” and “HIPAA and other regulatory concerns”• Only 1 of the 20 respondents expressed familiarity with the Social Media Guidance that the American Medical Association (AMA) released in November 2010• More than half of respondents reported that a professional organization or governmental Social Media guidance is not likely to influence whether or not they use Social Media professionally• Respondents expressed concern about the reliability of online information sources, but believe that reliable sources could make their patients better informed• 65% of respondents said they believe that said they believed that current medical students and residents should be trained in how to use social media as part of their education.
  7. 7. Recommendations• Physicians should use Social Media to inform people about medicine, not practice it  Social Media not a substitute for face-to-face interaction  Make it clear that people with health questions specific to them still need to see a doctor in person• Listen, especially before engaging in Social Media  Physicians should learn from what others are saying and doing before using Social Media themselves  Can identify misconceptions and misinformation  Listening part of sincerity; very important in healthcare  Social Media is a two-way tool!
  8. 8. Recommendations (cont’d)• Protect patients’ privacy and comply with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)  Physicians should not use people as specific examples without their consent, even while redacting their names  Physicians should not use audio, images or video footage of people without their consent, even if their face is not visible• Keep professional usage professional and limited to area of expertise  Physicians should maintain separate social media accounts for personal and professional use, and do not combine them unless absolutely necessary  Physicians should not use professional accounts to discuss or share content not pertaining to area of expertise
  9. 9. Recommendations (cont’d)• Sincerity is very important  Listen to what others are saying  Be genuine about wanting to help the audience  Take care to not sound opportunistic or, worse, exploitative  More difficult to do in Social Media, but still very important• Physicians should not use Facebook or Twitter to share content with those who are not their patients already  Very few of consumer survey respondents said they sought out health information these ways  Can use to share information with current patients
  10. 10. Recommendations (cont’d)• When writing content, cite the sources used  Can be easy to forget in a less formal writing setting  Citing sources adds to credibility• Keep focused on the patient, not the bottom line  Health care consumers can see through phony attempts to win their business  Physicians who look at Social Media strictly as another means to bring in more business will find that the opposite occurs  Physicians should keep their Social Media content focused on improving their audience’s health
  11. 11. Conclusion• Using social media in health care presents unique challenges, but also the opportunity for unique benefits• Key is for physicians to know how to use it properly  Comply with legal and ethical guidelines  Know how to maximize the capabilities of social media tools  At the very least, physicians need to know what is out there and what is reliable• Whether physicians like it or not, health care consumers are using Social Media. Physicians need to as well.
  12. 12. THANK YOU!