What My Medical Practice Website Taught Me About Social Media

July 27, 2012

Here are five lessons learned from having my own blog for the last three years. Bottom line: No website means no patients.

A few months ago, I was in Chicago to participate on a roundtable on social media and medicine, sharing what I’ve learned using my own blog on retinal diseases.

My blog started three years ago. To date, I reach out to about 15,000 new readers each month. I write about what I know about retinal diseases without making a diagnosis or giving medical advice. I’ve been in practice for almost 20 years. My surgical volume increased 30 percent last year over 2010.

Here are a few tips and recommendations that I shared in Chicago.

Your Website Must Be a Blog
There is no reason why your site should be created in anything but a blog format; technically, called “content management systems (CMS).” They are server-based, very cheap if not free, coded to maximize SEO, and have turn-key fully customizable themes.

So, while a “blog” can mimic any old-fashioned “HTML-generated” website, it can do more ...if you dare.

Blogs are unique by the ability of the reader (your future patient) to leave a comment. Leaving a comment allows the reader to contribute and to engage with your website.

The Powers of a Comment
You think your articles are interesting? Nothing is more engaging than when two readers share the same problem. The comments allow readers with a problem to identify with others of similar circumstances (this was, by the way, the true reason "Dear Abby" was so successful; readers could identify with one another).

Moreover, if you, the authority health provider, care to engage your readers by answering the comments, the “conversation” you’ve created is a great way to share some of your personality, practice philosophy and your “bedside manner.”

This transparency is the most powerful way a doctor can utilize social media to engage patients and grow a medical practice.

My advice is to integrate slowly, but move forward - you and your patients will agree.

No Website? No Need for Social Media
If you don’t have a website, or if you are not proud of your present website, you do not have to worry about traditional social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Social media platforms ultimately draw attention to your website. While they all appeal to different demographics, convey different types of information, and have unique differences for a medical practice, in the end, anyone interested in you will look for your webpage.

No Website? No Patients
Today’s generations of online patients now expect us to have a website. Even if your office is located across the street from your “hopeful” patient, they won’t call if they can’t find you on the Internet.

Practices lacking a website are making a bold statement that they don’t care to engage the patients’ needs of today. Not having a website clearly says, “We don’t care.”

Trans-generational Aspects
To my surprise, my experience has been that Internet use is trans-generational. There is not one specific age demographic that frequents my websites, “looks me up” on the Internet, or who is self-referred from my blog.

The perception that patients are too old is not correct. Perhaps many don’t know how to use a browser or perform a Google search, but they know someone who does - usually their adult children.

These are some of the things that I have learned by operating my own blog. It has been rewarding for me in so many ways.

Find out more about Randall Wong and our other Practice Notes bloggers.