Physicians’ online activity is on the rise.
- In a recent study by Google, 86% of U.S. physicians said they use the Internet to gather health, medical or prescription drug information.
- They’ve joined the social networking revolution too. According to a survey by Mediamix International, 34% of physicians now use social media.
For the most part, I’m excited by these statistics. Most of the heart and vascular marketers I know have been trying to encourage physician involvement in online activities for a long time.
But is there a downside?
I’ve been hearing a few horror stories lately.
- A marketing director friend recently told me about a patient who appeared at a cardiologist’s office without an appointment. When the office staff politely told him that he must have his dates mixed up, the patient said, “Oh no, I’m supposed to be here. I’ve been chatting with Dr. Jones on Facebook, and he told me to stop by.”
- Cases of doctors being sued for giving online advice in venues such as Facebook are also starting to surface.
Should these fears discourage marketers from involving physicians in social media efforts?
I hope not.
Physician and staff involvement adds credibility and knowledge that is hard to find in other sources. Online physician discussions offer amazing opportunities for both patient acquisition and retention.
But, it’s important to use common sense.
American Medical News recently published a post by Arthur R. Derse, MD, on this subject in its ethics forum.
I plan to share this with some of our clients as we plan for future campaigns. I think it offers some great reminders that communications must be HIPAA compliant and that they should avoid giving specific advice to individual patients.
As Dr. Derse says, the bottom line is that online physician involvement in social networks should begin with the tweetable Hippocratic aphorism, “First, do no harm.”