Thursday, November 3, 2011

How are Physicians taking to Social Media?

Social Media is no more just an in-thing. It has quickly become an integral part of our days and provided an excellent online extension to our lives. And it is now being used to keep track of sport scores, understanding stock market trends, ordering dinner etc. Social Media has also started making its in presence felt in various aspects of healthcare.

In an online survey carried out over apprx. 4,000 doctors with regards their involvement and interest in different types of social media, 87 % of the physicians claimed to be active on at least one social media site for personal use, while 67 % had used social media sites professionally too.

This is remarkable, given that a year back, predicting such numbers would have been preposterous. What is even more remarkable is that 66 % of the respondents described themselves as either “positive” or “very positive” with regard to the impact online patient communities are having on patients.

While Physicians were found to favor the social biggies, Facebook and LinkedIn over Twitter, 28 % said they were also using Physician Specific Online Communities. This is an interesting result and shows the scope for targeted and richer social networks directed at physicians. Sermo, DoctorsHangout, DocGlobal are 3 popular networks, and we’re sure that in 2012, a number of smaller more focused networks will also emerge.


While all seems to point to increased usage of Social media amongst Physicians, there are some aspects which will need addressing. Most surveyed physicians expressed concerns about privacy and legal ramifications. There is a great post by Dave Ekrem, on “7 tips to avoid HIPAA violations in social media” at for the interested. 

Besides these, it seems to be a concern to Physicians that there was no way to get paid for interacting with patients online. As more physicians jump on the Social media bandwagon, more concerns are bound to be raised. But each problem offers a potential business case. Some innovative EMR providers like have already demonstrated smart integrations with Social Services like Twitter and Facebook to help create a more robust patient record.

Also, social networks will start emerging which let patients discuss their problems and offer doctors the chance to help them. From a marketing perspective, this will help physicians create more trust amongst patients leading to more referrals.

13 % have participated in public online discussion forums with other physicians, while 2% have participated in public online discussions with patients; and 5 % have engaged in online chat with other physicians, while 2 % have engaged in online chat with their patients.

Another common concern amongst social media savvy physicians was that the technology was too new for them. This will get addressed over time as physicians get more acquainted with latest in technology. The more they use technology, the faster they will be able to adapt to newer technologies.

Use of Social Media is sure to grow amongst physicians. Since it involves both involvement as well as content, Social Media used effectively can help both in promotions as well as a medium for education.


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