Eighty percent of Americans have used the Internet to conduct research about their medical issues, according to NBC News. In fact, after checking email and researching products before buying, looking for medical information is the most popular thing people do on the Internet. With those numbers, you’d think medical writing services would fill the Web with relevant content, hoping to gain market share.
A Market Inefficiency
As it turns out, you’d be wrong. Sure, there are resources like WebMD, Mayo Clinic, and BabyCenter that cover healthcare topics on a larger scale. But what about individual doctors? What about local medical professionals who could be using the Web to build interest in their practices? It’s not really happening yet. According to MedCrunch, 30 percent of doctors have no social media accounts at all, and just over half use Facebook, the granddaddy of social media sites.
That last stat is particularly startling when you consider how much people share on Facebook. It’s even more mind-boggling in light of the fact that recommendations from friends is by far the most powerful way physicians grow their practices. Doctors who resist the physical revolution are only hurting themselves. After all, who wouldn’t want to establish a presence on a site that makes it so easy for others to sing their praises?
One issue in the way of progress is the perception that people have of social media, particularly older patients that comprise the majority of the average physician’s client base. These patients may not understand what social media is and they sure don’t want to think that their doctor would rather play around on the Internet than treat patients. Nobody wants their patients to think they don’t care. So, given the trade-off between alienating valued patients and building an online brand, keeping current customers happy is always going to win.
Content is King
Social media platforms aren’t the ultimate answer for physicians. They aren’t universally used and they can only do so much. The real key to success for doctors in the 2014 and beyond is to create a wealth of relevant content that educates patients and encourages them to spread the word.
Notable physicians like Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Joel Fuhrman have already figured out that the way to reach people is by giving them the answers to their questions. It shows their expertise and lends credibility to their names. They know that the next time people have health questions, they’ll come back for more information.
If this strategy is used by local physicians, it will lead to an increased patient load and a more prestigious position in the community. And let’s not forget about enhanced patient satisfaction, which is critical in this age when the doctor-patient relationship isn’t always warm and fuzzy.
Technology is a tricky issue for doctors, who must find ways to educate while maintaining doctor-patient confidentiality. They must also find the time to commit to becoming more digital. However, the benefits are well worth the effort. Those doctors who are among the first to enter the technology age will find it extremely rewarding.
Bryan B is a freelancer writer living in Long Island, N.Y. He may be the only writer in the entire world that doesn’t drink coffee.