You Can Connect With Patients — Safely — Using Social Media

We know that people frequently turn to the Internet for health information. But they are not just doing Google searches. A survey conducted in spring 2011 found that a growing number of people use social media, especially Facebook and YouTube, as a source of health care information.

As a physician, you can weigh in as a credible source with a professional Facebook page, YouTube presence, or Twitter account. This not only helps patients but also can solidify your position as trusted leader who is engaged with your patients and on the cutting edge of your profession.

While you should be wary of one-on-one communication with patients via social media for privacy reasons, you still can have an active presence this sphere. For example, you can use your Facebook page to share:

  • Updated medical guidelines, such as new screening recommendations;
  • Resources on topics such as safe dieting or quitting a tobacco habit;
  • Interesting findings related to your specialty;
  • Explanations of procedures, for example, a cosmetic surgery procedure;
  • Treatment options for a specific disease;
  • Success stories in your practice (you can use fictional patient names); or
  • Information about your practice, such as an after-hours flu vaccine clinic.

You also could:

  • Pose a fitness challenge, asking people to share their results on your Facebook page;
  • Tweet about significant appointment delays, for example, if you are an obstetrician-gynecologist who gets called to the hospital for deliveries; or
  • Post a patient poll about a topic relevant to your practice.

Concerned that you might be treading into ethical gray areas if you enter into the social media milieu? TMA’s on-demand webinar, “Electronic Communications,” addresses this topic. In this one-hour webinar, you’ll learn about your professional responsibility, and legal and ethical issues physicians face when using social media to communicate with patients.

Published Nov. 29, 2011


TMA Practice E-Tips main page


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