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Should Medical Practices Use Social Media?

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As the corporate world continues to benefit from social media’s powerful communication techniques, it’s not surprising that doctors and hospitals are climbing aboard the bandwagon to create electronic footprints using similar technologies.

The Indianapolis Star featured a story in regard to doctors who are embracing social media as an ideal tool for marketing and sharing health information. According to Keith Humes, CEO of Rosemont Media, sites such as Facebook are expanding opportunities for referrals:

Facebook is “the new word-of-mouth referral.” [It] allows us to take a half-step into the practice and get a feeling for what it is like.

Internist Dr. Kevin Pho agrees:

Gone are the days when people are going to look for doctors in the Yellow Pages. It’s really to a physician’s advantage to have a digital footprint. . . . I try to convince other doctors (that) you need to get online sooner rather than later.

The American Medical Association took a step forward in the movement toward online medical communication by publishing guidelines that assist in maintaining patient privacy laws and preserving the patient-physician relationship. Since then, practices and physicians have gradually begun to create an online presence.

The article elaborates further on the benefits:

Hospital systems also are beginning to recognize the appeal, taking the medium beyond the question of whether doctors should email patients.

Nothing can replace a face-to-face visit, but there’s still ample place for health-care providers online, said Dan Rench, vice president of e-business for Community Health Network.

“It used to be that it was just a way for people to share information that they would typically have in a brochure,” Rench said. “Now it’s become the way that people do business.”

Community has an online chat option, where anyone older than 18 can pose health questions to a registered nurse for a ?real-time,” or immediate, answer. Questions range from whether an emergency room visit is necessary after being hit on the head with a soccer ball to inquiries about sexually transmitted diseases.

Some, such as Dr. Zeshan Rajput, a medical informatics fellow at the Regenstrief Institute, use Twitter to stay current with the latest medical literature.

“Any given fact in medicine, half of them are useless in 10 years,” said Rajput, also an internist at the Indiana University School of Medicine. “There’s a lot of medical news putting their headlines and links on Twitter. So it’s a really fast way for me to keep in touch with all that information.”

business process transformation at doctor\'s offices

© Flickr user Walk Stoneburner

Given the popularity and usability of social media in our society today, it almost seems foreign for medical practices not to have websites, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts. Not only does the technology help market the practice itself, but it provides patients with easily accessible information and can create more organizational productivity for referrals, appointments, and follow-ups.

On the flip side, it may seem perfectly rational that doctors maintain an offline status. After all, nourishing webpages and social media sites is a lot of upkeep. And, if there is one thing we do know, adding in time for Facebook and Twitter updates could be next to impossible for doctors who already work long hours as it is. The question that many practices and physicians are forced to examine is whether online medical communication is beneficial enough to increase office efficiency as well as patient care?

AccelaWork examines process efficiency as well as productivity of social media. If you are a physician, medical assistant, or work in a medical office, consider contacting our business process implementation experts. We can help you find the best way to utilize social media within your organization.

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