Doctors and Social Media

The use of social media for Doctors can be a topic with many opinions. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have become part of daily life, and some physicians find themselves pondering if they should jump on the trend. Some opinions go against the use of it to promote one’s practice or to build a personal brand as a physician. The stance against it argues burnout by an already overworked physician, lack of monetary ROI for the efforts, and less of a work-life balance. The opposite opinion is that the use of social media and digital content is becoming more popular in businesses across all professions, and the medical industry is not exempt.

I’ve asked five experts in the area to weigh in on the topic of digital communications in terms of content and social media within the healthcare profession, these are their thoughts:

Daniel Cabrera Jr. – Digital Marketing Manager at Sea Spine Orthopedic Institute

“One of the most important aspects of digital marketing in healthcare relates to brand management and marketing communication. A healthcare provider’s digital voice and perception, for example, is key in conveying authority and trust. It becomes even more important when two-way dialogue is initiated (responding to reviews or comments on social sites) as maintaining HIPPA compliance is critical to the marketing strategy otherwise there are hefty fines to pay.”

Cabrera provides insight into the importance of using digital communication within the healthcare profession but also warns caution. Much of what a physician or healthcare organization publishes online is used as a trusted source of information. If medical professionals are distributing content, it should be sound, valid, and correct information. Disclaimers should also be used as to when to consult a healthcare professional for individual circumstances.

Lin Humphrey, Ph.D– Assistant Professor of Marketing at Florida International University

We’ve seen an interesting trend in medutainment where Instagram-active doctors have made the shift from mobile to television. While their practices only have so much capacity, this type of digital and broadcast exposure absolutely helps with any brand extensions, such as the skincare line developed by Dr. Sandra Lee (Dr. Pimple Popper). If she can squeeze or pop it, I will watch it (ewwwww.). The upside of this exposure for the public is that they are likely less scared to see their local doctor about something that they worried about or were scared to ask about, which is wonderful.

Humphrey touches on the topic of Doctors who’ve gained fame on social media and how it allowed them to leverage the exposure to promote products they’ve created to extend their brand beyond the healthcare field. Celebrity doctors have been around for decades with names like Dr. Oz and Dr. Drew Ordon, but recently social media platforms have created a rise of influencer doctors like @drpimplepopper, and @doctor.mike. It has become a popular trend amongst younger healthcare professionals to grow a mass following on social networks and use that audience to develop their personal brands.

Dr. Ameri, DO– Broward General Hospital, Orthopedic Surgery Resident

“Social Media is being used by many physicians for professional interests. Two main types of accounts have predominated. There’s are those who use social media to advance their field and show interesting cases or techniques, generally with an intended audience of other physicians and practitioners. The other main account type is held by those looking more toward self-promotion and marketing, generally targeted toward the public. The latter will generally promote products for financial incentive and give out more general information on medical topics. The former will discuss specialized topics to those with relevant esoteric knowledge. The route that a physician chooses is dependent on what they are looking to get out of social media, as this aspect of a digital presence can position you as an authority in two separate circles.”

Dr. Ameri speaks about the type of content a physician publishes on social sites and how the format can position them as an expert in different ways. By defining the goals, a of social strategy before launching, relevant content can be delivered to the correct audience whether education for colleagues or information the general public.

Ana Marcela Brenes-Lugo – Marketing Specialist 

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“Digital marketing is communication that can be transmitted in five seconds from just a click of a button, whether it’s through a tweet, video, or photo. Once it hits the internet, that media content [has the potential to go] global; that is the power of digital [content]… Industries realize that they can no longer stay in traditional marketing methods because the target audience is becoming too narrow. For an industry to grow, they have to allow themselves to learn, engage, and connect with their consumers through understanding their needs and preferences”.

Brenes-Lugo brings up the point that industries need to adapt their marketing communication mediums to stay relevant within their target base. Traditional marketing methods lack a focus on customer needs and can be less relevant to the people they are reaching.  In recent years the healthcare professional have begun adopting digital communication in addition to traditional marketing efforts. An excellent example of this is the Mayo Clinic, which created the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network to encourage and teach healthcare providers how to properly use social media strategies within the industry.

Marisa Zambrano – Multimedia Content Manager, Epson America

 “We live in a world where interactivity is key. People are dying for connection… brands need to create interactive spaces and content to be memorable, engaging, authentic, and human. When the time comes to choose a brand for a service that they need, you can be top of mind because of those memorable spaces created”.

Zambrano’s take on the importance of engaging content drives the point of connecting with your target audience by providing valuable and relevant experiences. Engaging content coupled with targeting your audience based on behaviors and location can be a powerful education tool in reaching people that otherwise would not have access to general healthcare information. Many communities lack access or knowledge on how to educate themselves on topics regarding their health. 

Final Thoughts

As the world becomes reliant on technology, and people have more access to digital information through the use of devices like smartphones and tablets, instant connections are made between brands and their audiences. The days of businesses simply posting holiday greeting or sharing funny videos and memes are behind us. Brands are gaining momentum by creating content that their audience can engage with and relate to. The medical industry has started to follow the trend. Younger physicians that grew up with technology at their fingertips see the benefits of leveraging digital communication, specifically in the realm of social media. However, the topic isn’t cut and dry. The question of what type of content is beneficial for your online community arises. Does a physician promote themselves with goals for extending their career into related industries? Do they share their knowledge with colleagues and strengthen each other’s skills? Perhaps the answer lies within a balance as sharable and easy to understand content can be a bridge between the medical community and those without access.