Have you noticed all the hype surrounding social media and healthcare lately?
You’d have to be living under a moss-covered rock not to see all the e-mails, online ads, and websites enticing physicians to become involved.
I use social media in my medical practice every week to educate patients and promote my practice. But I want to tell you a story that will make you think twice before jumping in with both feet.
Avvo.com is a website where people can get legal questions answered for free by attorneys who join the website. A few years ago they added a physician component to their list of services. I joined and thought they did a great job of collecting patient reviews and giving me an outlet to provide some patient education.
The healthcare/physician component of their business was sold to another company several weeks ago, and all the connections I had to their website were immediately unplugged — shut down.
This didn’t hurt my practice at all. I wasn’t dependent upon this website in any significant way. However, I did find it useful and now I have to make some modifications to parts of my practice because of this business decision the company made.
Before you join any online community that claims to "plug you in," or provide a "portal" for you to communicate with patients or colleagues, keep the following things in mind.
1. They need you - you don’t need them.
These companies are dependent upon physician engagement and participation, but are not obligated to maintain their services over time.
If they decide to sell the company and move on, they don’t have to let you know ahead of time or even seek your input. This is true for any online social media "community" website, even Facebook.
Where would Facebook be without its users? Worthless.
Keep this in mind the next time you see a promotion for a new social media physician community.
2. Never put your social media eggs in one basket.
Do not depend on sites like these for any significant portion of your business or promotional activity.
Only use these sites and communities as ancillary or auxiliary outlets for your practice.
For example, one of my favorite features of avvo.com was the patient review and ratings system. I sent many patients to that website to leave reviews. Now those reviews are not online at that website any more — vaporized in cyberspace.
Fortunately I kept all the reviews on my computer and I have plenty of reviews from other websites I sent patients to.
3. Keep your practice promotion foundation strong.
Don’t get distracted by the "shiny object syndrome" that’s ubiquitous in the field of healthcare social media. There’s always a new website or free service coming down the line, wanting you to get involved and get engaged to revolutionize your practice.
Make sure you control your website as tightly as possible and if you’re going to be involved in social media, get started with the basics first.
I suggest learning about the three main players: Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. They’re not going away anytime soon, and you can always use material and content to enhance other more physician-specific online communities.
For example, after you’ve created some patient education videos or material, you can add those to other website communities for physicians to enhance your profile.
Finally, remember that 95 percent of your competitors are not on these websites in a significant way. Further, they’re not putting much energy at all into practice promotion or improving their online reputation.
While it’s nice to get involved in something new and exciting online, don’t over-commit your intellectual capital. Just by focusing on the basics of patient education, getting online reviews, and some social media here and there, you’ll be miles ahead of other physicians in your community.