Leaderboard Ad

Use Social Media More Effectively

Social media may be the single most effective method to build a referral base, establish a practice niche, and get a practice off the ground. At the same time, social media used improperly can open the otolaryngologist to significant legal liability.

That was the key message from a special session on “Using Social Media in Medicine,” sponsored by the Section for Residents and Fellows-in-Training and the Media and Public Relations Committee. Otolaryngologists both ignore social media and misuse it at their own peril.

“Social media is any online forum where you can share ideas and information,” said Lawrence Simon, MD, Louisiana State University School of Medicine, New Orleans. “It can be a powerful means to build a referral base, to let people know you have arrived. And social media is the key to attracting young patients who will be with you for years to come.”

Between 30 percent and 45 percent of all patients use social media to find health information, Dr. Simon explained. Among patients between 18 and 24 years old, that jumps to 90 percent. Older patients are online, too. Of patients 45 to 64 years old, 45 percent go online for health information.

“Print—newspaper ads, phone directory ads—don’t work any longer,” said Julie Wei, MD, Nemours Children’s Hospital. “I keep a one-line listing in the Yellow Pages for those rare patients who are not online. Almost all of my patients, regardless of age, use social media.”

Forums such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others offer avenues to get and to give help, Dr. Simon said. They also help venues link to local medical groups and AAO/HNS to quickly gain wide exposure, become a leader, and benefit medicine. Social media is also a direct line to advertise and market to patients and other physicians. Every posting on a relevant topic helps define your niche and identity in the community.

“Physicians are the most trusted reporters in all of social media,” he said. “When a doctor posts, it carries more weight than almost anyone else. It gives you more access to patients and gives your patients more access to your practice and your staff. We have seen social media foster revolutions across the Middle East. If it can do that in a repressive environment, just think of what it can do for you!”

The key is to remember that your ultimate goal is to build your practice and bring patients into the office, said Christopher Chang, MD, owner of Fauquier ENT in Warrenton, VA. He suggested linking content on Facebook, a blog, a practice website, and Twitter. The blog, informational articles on otolaryngology, provide new content. Every blog post needs Twitter posts, called tweets, to draw attention to it. Both tweets and blogs link to the practice Facebook page and the practice website. The practice Facebook page links to both the blog and the practice website.

“Everything you are doing has to relate to the practice,” Dr. Chang said. “Once people get to your website, they are much more likely to make an appointment.”

The down side is that social media postings are eternal. It is all too easy to accidentally post clinical details that could violate HIPPA and protected health information requirements.

“You have to remember that even if you close down your Facebook or any other social media account, everything you have ever posted is still searchable and findable,” said Lee Eisenberg, MD, ENT and Allergy Associates, Englewood, NJ. “Nothing on the Internet stays hidden.”