Like many other businesses in the United States and throughout the world, medical practices have embraced the Internet as a way to advertise and market their services and reach out to communicate with potential new patients. A 2012 survey by Vanguard Communications of 300 medial specialists (OB/GYNs, urologists and orthopedic surgeons) in Boston, Denver, and Portland showed that 70% of those physicians maintain websites. The numbers for the medical profession as a whole is even higher. Clearly, many doctors consider having an online presence to be critical for the success of their practices.
The Social Media Explosion
One area of online communication that has grown with amazing rapidity among physicians in the past few years is the use of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. A recent study of Dr. Gabriel Bosslet, an internist at Indiana University Health, reveals just how fast that growth has been. Between February and May 2010, Dr. Bosslet collected data on Internet and social media use among physicians and posted his results on the website of the Journal of General Internal Medicine. At that time, he discovered that just over 40% of physicians used social media sites. A similar study conducted by the consulting firm Frost and Sullivan just a year later found that some 84% of doctors were active users of social media. Another survey later that year by the online physician collaborative QuantiaMD recorded the figure at over 90%.
Those numbers are eye-opening, especially considering that the Pew Internet & American Life Project estimated last year that about 65% of the general population use social media. Clearly, doctors are ahead of the curve when it comes to being active in this fast-growing segment of the Internet.
Online But Not In Touch
Hidden in these numbers, however, is a dirty little secret: while 90% of doctors are active users of social media, less than two-thirds of them use these sites professionally. And those who do use it often fail to take advantage of social media’s potential to reach out to potential patients. The QuantiaMD survey revealed that on 15% of doctors use Facebook professionally, and only 3% used Twitter to communicate with patients. Only one-third of the respondents in the survey said that they had received a “Friend” request via Facebook from a patient, and three-quarters of those who did actually declined the request. Why are physicians as a group failing to take advantage of this powerful marketing tool?
Part of the answer is a concern about liability and patient privacy. Many physicians are reluctant to discuss patient health issues over social media for fear that they may reveal confidential information that could lead to a potential lawsuit. This is borne out by the fact that physician-to-physician communication via social media far outstrips physician-to-patient interactions. These interactions most often occur in closed social media communities that are not open to the general public. While doctors feel comfortable sharing professional information with peers, they are more reluctant to share this information publicly. Of course, for others, limited social media use is largely a matter of time management. Many doctors simply don’t have enough hours in the day to run their practices and be active on social media sites.
The QuantiaMD survey found that physicians had little knowledge of online patient communities on social media, but those who were familiar with them considered them important channels for doctor-to-patient communication. Online research companies also found that there is a growing demand among patients for more contact with physicians on social media. Patients are hungry for the kind of two-way communication enabled by social media; they want to be able to talk with their doctors, not just be talked to by them. Despite the fears of many doctors about communicating on public forums, patients clearly are clamoring for this type of interaction.
Social Media Marketing With Axiom
If you currently maintain a website but have been reluctant to make the foray into social media, you could benefit from a strategic partnership with a company that is experienced in social media marketing. That’s why you should get in touch with Axiom. Not only are we a leading provider of top-notch web design and search engine optimization services including social media marketing, we also know healthcare. In addition to having the best IT professionals in the business, Axiom staff knows the healthcare industry and the challenges faced by physicians in running their practices. Let us help you develop a social media plan that will increase your ability to keep in touch with your current patients as well as reach out to potential new ones. With Axiom, social media can be the ideal solution to expanding the reach of your practice.
Posted by: Axiom Healthcare Marketing