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Here’s how your knowledge of online medical practice promotion and social media can help this generation of students navigate the uncertain healthcare waters.
When medical students rotate through our practice, I give them my one best piece of advice for the future: Know what you’re getting into.
I tell them to talk to and visit a broad range of physicians’ offices and learn all about the various styles of practice out there before making a career decision.
These students are already online, of course, and are leaving a trail.
Apparently a new study reveals that 9 percent of medical school and residency program directors are searching social media profiles - such as Facebook - to find out more about applicants.
As a well-connected online physician, you should share this article with medical (and even pre-med) students you run across.
If a student were sitting in front of me in my office, I’d tell them to make sure they were comfortable with their online social media profiles and what they may reveal.
At the same time I’d encourage them about the power of social media and "being online" as a promotional and patient connection tool during practice.
Here are three other pieces of wisdom I suggest you pass on to the future leaders of our healthcare system.
1. Register your name as a website
This is the number one, most important promotional step you can take for your medical practice. Most medical students will immediately understand this, having essentially grown up online.
Claim some easily-remembered version of your name and reserve it as a domain name.
It’s easy to do, costs less than $20 per year, and you’ll use it basically forever unless you live in a cave somewhere or separate from modern society for a decade.
My favorite domain name search tools are bustaname.com and a site called domai.nr. These websites also link to pages where you can buy, or register the domain name.
Once you register the name, it’s up to you what you do with it. You can start a blog, a patient education website, or just sit on it and wait for the right time.
2. Start following interesting physicians and healthcare leaders on Twitter
Twitter was designed as an up-to-date news source. It’s OK to just follow and read news and information from people you respect and admire.
As a student, you don’t have to "join the conversation" - just start collecting, say, five experts to follow each week. By the end of a year, you’ll be keeping track of the best of the best influencers, movers and shakers in your pet area of healthcare.
This blog post on social media tools will help you get started.
3. Research your field of choice online - connect offline
Once you’ve narrowed your choice of medical specialty or field of interest, start looking for practices and physicians in that area online.
Set up a Google Alert to keep you up to date on new practices or new websites in that field.
What are these practices doing online to promote themselves and get new patients?
Start developing a list of questions you would ask physicians you want to emulate.
Find doctors in your chosen specialty in your local area and connect with them offline, once you’ve seen what their online personality is like.
Develop a "hit list" of medical practices with different flavors - private, academic, or some other mixture of one or the other practice style. Jot down questions you would ask these doctors about why they chose their field and style of practice.
Advise students to pursue their interests, but with a pragmatic view of how they’ll attract the patients they want in their practice.
Encourage them to use online tools to make the most informed decision they possibly can in an uncertain market.