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Doctors share how they use social media to improve health

OK. I’ll admit it. I get choked up at times when sharing some of the highlights from the recent  Health Care Social Media Summit with others in PR and marketing. It really hits me when I tell them about the doctors and — especially — patients who are using social media to make a difference in the lives of others. Just ask my co-workers. I fought back tears during a lunch ‘n’ learn this week.

On the physician side, I had the great fortune of hearing from four doctors (listed below) who are active in social media in a fascinating 3-hour session.

They participate in social media mainly to provide accurate information about topics ranging from chronic illnesses to public health concerns. They find social media an effective way to build stronger relationships with patients and community members. They have attracted new patients and made existing ones feel more comfortable by establishing and nurturing relationships online. They are careful not to violate HIPAA, by not sharing direct advice to patients, but speaking in general about health-related topics. They share stories about their own families.

They also use social media as a listening tool – for gathering information about their specialty. For example, one of the docs follows a physician on Twitter who regularly shares links to pertinent articles in publications such as the New York Times. Another uses Tweetdeck to follow hashtags such as #hcsm.

For the most part, all of the members of panel do social media on their own, not as part of organization.  (Sidebar: Blogger and social media activist Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, (@seattlemamadoc) of Seattle Children’s Hospital gave a great keynote later. She is paid by her hospital to do social media and magazine writing part of her work week – two days a week as a consultant.)

Twitter appears to be top choice of docs due to time efficiency – followed by blogs, LinkedIn and videos, which can be time-savers when used to answer commonly-asked-questions. They reserve personal Facebook pages for family and friends. None mentioned Google+.

Here are a few highlights of their remarks:

Mark Katz, MD, (@subatomiicdoc) of Saints Medical Center uses social media to help patients with their cancer experience. Spends most of time on Twitter, LinkedIn. Found  Digg very helpful until this service changed . If were to start now, would not have used Yahoo! Answers to respond to questions.  Social media for physicians has to be intrinsic, not for pay, Took vacation time to do this and other social media talks.

Mark Ryan, MD, (@RichmondDoc ) Richmond, Va., family doctor who works with underserved patients and communities. Social media is a public health tool that allows you to share information on your schedule, instead of at health fairs, community presentations. Likes Twitter.  Doing social media in off hours is chance to express self and educate at same time, Find and create a “core group” of social media evangelists to help organization education. Helps non-profits with social media. Skills on individual accounts not same as for an organization.  Has to set time limits so social media doesn’t impinge on family time. Audience grew organically by joining conversations,

Christian Sinclair, MD, (@ctsinclair) Palliative Medicine Doctor-@KCHospice, Editor-@Pallimed, Founder @AdAstraSKC. Social media helps create more educated patients. Meet docs where they are when trying to explain the merits of their possible involvement in social media. Don’t impose social media on them. Can get referrals due to familiarity built through social media. Contribute, cultivate over time. Quality content published at least 2/3 times per week built blog audience,

Jennifer Shine Dyer, MD, (@EndoGoddess) (formerly with Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus). Majored in journalism. Developed an app for diabetics — technology must provide trigger or reminder, information, motivation. The thing that drives her to do social media is helping people and making a difference in this world. “I keep really clean boundaries about when I do (social media),” she says. Can be like an addiction. Social media takes her an hour a day, cumulative.

Meanwhile, in the audience, Mike Sevilla,MD, of Youngstown. (@drmikesevilla) tweeted and status updated away to his many followers.

It was an honor to be in their presence. I am so thankful to Catholic Health Partners, my employer, for giving me the opportunity to attend the Summit. It’s no surprise to me why CHP was named one of the 2011 Best Places to Work in Greater Cincinnati today by the Greater Cincinnati Business Courier.

  1. November 5, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    Thanks for the mention!

    • mikeboehmer57
      November 5, 2011 at 12:47 pm

      It’s so great to have you right here in Ohio as an example of what docs can do with social media.

  2. November 7, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Nice write up here, Mike.

    Dr. Sinclair was not on my radar yet, thanks for steering me towards him. Now following. 🙂

    #hcsm is the most prominent but there are tons of great hashtag communities for healthcare on Twitter. I follow along at #hcsmca myself (The Canadian equivalent) as well as #HITsm (Health IT focused). Good to know more health pros are using social media to listen not just for mentions of their name/facility but to the overall industry and their specialty in particular.


    Jason Boies
    Radian6 Community Team

    • mikeboehmer57
      November 9, 2011 at 11:40 am

      Jason — Thanks for sharing these hashtags. Lots of great info being shared and connections made in the Twiter health care space.

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