How to use social media in clinical practice

Treating patients, keeping up with the latest research and running a business means squeezing the most out of minutes. Adding social media into the mix seems a contradiction – it might seem like chitter chatter and time-wasting.

There is also the question of mixing private use of social media with work – maybe you’re on Facebook – No Way do you want patients to find you, or know anything about your private stuff, but Yes Way, you’d like an easy way to stay up-to-date, and let people know what you do professionally. Maybe.

Photo by Mark Smiciklas, IntersectionConsulting.com

You might be thinking ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, or perhaps you keep meaning to ‘do something about that Facebook stuff’, (does anyone get Twitter anyway?), but you reflect that your world is not going to stop turning if you do not use it – it’s not like you are going to run out of patients. If you relate to any of these common reflections, then it might be worth learning more. Here is one of two posts on some of the ways that social media is being used:

Social media to facilitate your clinical practice

Let’s say you are working in clinical practice, you might sell things, and you might be wanting to attract a particular kind of client? You want what you do to stand out as something a bit different and you want potential and current patients to see your treatment is evidence-based.

First, they have to find you. More and more, people are turning to Google (or Bing, or Yahoo! perhaps) instead of picking up the phone book. Adding yourself and your practice to social media accounts means Google finds you more easily, which means clients finds you more easily.

What is a social media account? There are several common accounts. Facebook is probably the most popular.  One can have a professional Facebook page, which is not your personal page, does not include personal information (unless you want it to) and does not put you at risk of cybermisadventures with which such sites are sometimes associated.  What would you put on your Facebook page? You might want to list some of the treatments you are doing, up-to-date research, events and relevant articles you’ve read. Facebook currently has 400 million active users, 50% of whom log onto Facebook every day[1] so it is certainly worth a second glance if you are considering it.

If your desire is to link up with like-minded clinicians or researchers, or to link in to their networks, then perhaps an aptly named site called LinkedIn would help[2].  LinkedIn is another free site and is your CV online – but much more: it connects you to your peers, clients find you as they search for practices in their area and it advertises very nicely what you do, in other words your LinkedIn profile comes up in Google searches. If you don’t have a website it can be your individual site online which you can add to your email address.  LinkedIn currently has over 70 million members in over 200 countries[3].

If you do have a website then add a blog/current news section – Google will find you a lot more quickly if you do this. What do you write about? This depends on your audience – for patients you might want to write about basic exercises, good practice, take a 2 min video of an exercise and stick it on youtube as well as on your site (not hard to do, honestly).  It is pretty cool to be able to say to your patient when you hand them their exercise sheet – ‘if you forget how to do it, have a look at my site – I’ve got a section there on how to do this exercise if you forget’. How often do you need to write? The content can be anything from a couple of paragraphs a week to a book a day.

This is an example of a virtual network translating into a physical one.  Your patient has a look at your site, tells their friends, they then have a look and your reputation grows on and off-line.  The bonus is that you get to put out some quality patient information (the quality of what you post comes down to you of course, and with the huge amount of information available it is worthwhile to provide evidence that what you are writing about is credible).

Next post: Social media and keeping up with research

References

[1] http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics
[2] http://www.linkedin.com/
[3] http://press.linkedin.com/