Social media can offer a number of benefits to physicians and other health care providers, from reaching new patients and building current patients' loyalty to networking with colleagues and staying abreast of the latest research. Medical professionals are not the only ones, however, who can benefit from an active presence on social media networks. By sharing the right information, providers' participation in social media can also help make their patients healthier.
BETTER ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS
The general public is increasingly turning to the Internet for answers to questions on medicine or health care. A concern of many health care professionals regards postings by unqualified sources, which could lead readers to make decisions relating to their health based on incomplete, misleading, or inaccurate information. Although they may not be able to stop patients from seeking information on the Internet, physicians' active presence on social media can help provide patients with better and more reliable sources of education. Whether directly answering patients' general health care questions or simply linking to trustworthy resources in social media posts, ophthalmologists can help their patients live healthier lives by offering dependable resources.
IMPORTANT HEALTH REMINDERS
Many clinics and practices offer services to patients that can provide early detection or prevention of conditions through regular examinations, vaccinations, or screenings. Unfortunately, patients often do not take advantage of these programs, many times due to either a lack of awareness or forgetfulness. It is not until they are sick that they learn that flu shots were available, for example, or not until a condition causes complications that they realize they have missed their last few checkups. Social media provides an excellent opportunity to help patients learn about the services or events a practice is offering as well as a way to share reminders— either general or, with patients' permission, personalized—about the routine care and examinations they need to stay healthy.
Health care professionals, to a large extent, are responsible for the well -being of patients. Physicians and other providers give important medical direction, provide preventive care, offer healing and rehabilitation, and provide services that improve patients' general quality of life. Some patients, however, associate a visit to their health care provider with the anxiety of having to discuss the occasionally highly personal—and sometimes embarrassing—matter of their health. There may be no way to change the topic of conversation, but ophthalmologists can make seeking care a more comfortable experience. By connecting and communicating with patients through social media, physicians can demonstrate their expertise, trustworthiness, and compassion. When patients are able to view their eye care provider as a trusted friend rather than a detached professional, they may be more likely not only to turn to him or her when they have concerns, but also to provide the honest and complete information that both the patient and the physician need to make informed decisions.
Shama Kabani is a best-selling author, speaker, and president of The Marketing Zen Group in Dallas. Ms. Kabani may be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter @ Shama.
Cary M. Silverman, MD, MBA, a LASIK and refractive cataract eye surgeon, is the medical director of EyeCare 20/20 in East Hanover, New Jersey. Dr. Silverman may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @The LASIKdoc.