Social media is one of the fastest-growing industries in our country and is an important factor in our community landscape. As a physician, it can be overwhelming to add social media as a to-do list in your busy workday. You may be thinking, “what’s the point, anyway?”
You have the opportunity to engage with patients on a day-to-day basis on a platform that they spend excessive amounts of time on – people in the US check their facebook, twitter, and other social media accounts 17 times a day. What if every time they did so, they saw a message from you that helps them make informed choices for their health?
Monitor your reputation – it’s out there with or without your input
Physician-rating sites like Vitals, HealthGrades, Yelp and RateMDs create profile pages for every doctor in the US and will allow your patients to rate you. Profiles from these sites appear at the top of Google search results, so it is important that you ensure the content is accurate. While you cannot remove negative feedback, you may encourage your patients to contribute a review so the good will outweigh the bad.
After you’ve gotten assimilated with these platforms, you can decide if engaging more with social media is something that would create value for your practice. You can create a Facebook page to connect with patients, providing practice updates, general medical information or directing them to credible resources. Connect with colleagues on Twitter or LinkedIn to stay up to date with them.
Use social media platforms to lobby for causes you care about.
HIPAA and Social Media Safety
While the internet provides an incredible platform to further engage with your patients and colleagues, there are very important HIPAA guidelines to be aware of. Before you get started on a social media platform, do some reading to make sure that your posts are HIPAA compliant. Here’s some tips to start with:
- HIPAA defines Protected Health Information (PHI) as any information that is
- created or received by a physician
- relates to the health or condition of an individual,
- identifies the individual (or information which could be used to identify the individual), and
- is transmitted or maintained in electronic media. (The Hospitalist)
- Don’t talk about patients, but rather about conditions and treatments. For example:
Avoid: “I saw a patient last Tuesday with xyz condition …”
OK: “Children with xyz condition typically present with these symptoms …” (KevinMD)
- DO NOT engage in social media anonymously. It is too easy to get away with saying things you wouldn’t say yourself. Take the credit for your expertise, and don’t take the risk of violating HIPAA policies. Anonymity is not as safe as it may seem, take it from Dr. Flea.
Is social media right for you and your practice? Connect with OCMS on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.