As an adjunct professor, pediatric ENT surgeon and CEO and chief medical officer of Annica Media, Russell Faust would seem to have his hands full, a jam-packed schedule and plenty of reasons not to take on the potential time-suck of social media.
And yet, despite all that, he’s not only a firm believer in the value of social media — blogging in particular — he also believes it holds the key to better care, better connections with patients and more efficient operations.
It’s an argument he lays out well in (where else?) a post on his blog: Why Physicians (like me) Blog. In short, his answer is simple: the potential return on investment is extraordinary. Among the benefits he cites:
- You will gain market share – yes, it will help grow your practice!
- You will be recognized as an authority in your area of practice (which will also grow your practice)
- You will be better connected with your patients: compliance with your diagnostic and treatment regimens will improve
- Your patients will arrive in clinic better-educated, and take less time in your clinic: it will streamline your clinic work flow!
- Your patients will be less needy outside of clinic: they will require less time on the phone with you and your nurses
- You will more closely approximate the relationship with your patients that earlier generations of physicians enjoyed
- In short: your participation in social media provides a win/win for your practice and your patients. It is good medicine.
While Faust is clearly an advocate for social media — Annica Media is a medical practice marketing company — he’s not blind to the fact that it can be yet another time-consuming commitment for doctors who are already busy with consults, surgeries and running a small business.
But spending 1-2 hours per week on his own blog, he says that he began receiving 5,000 unique visits to it after 12 months and, three years later, now receives 15,000 to 20,000. More important, perhaps, 30–50% of his new patients arrive at his clinic by way of his digital presence.
When you think of it that way, the question isn’t why a physician like Dr. Faust blogs, but rather, why more physicians don’t.
1. If content is king, context is queen
Writing a blog is about giving aesthetic consumers information they seek, not about touting your credentials or promoting your practice. Pay attention to trending topics in the news, the questions consumers post on sites like RealSelf and the issues current patients raise and you’ll build an audience that turns to you for both thought leadership and future appointments.
Unless you’re a natural-born writer, creating good content from scratch can be tedious and time-consuming. Fortunately, there’s a wealth of good information out there — statistics, original research, trend data — that you can tap into. Adding insights based on your own experience will personalize your posts and ensure they align with your readers’ needs and concerns.
3. Use social tools to extend your reach
Once you’ve created a post, don’t just let it sit there. Repurpose it again by posting a link to it on your social media profiles, creating a YouTube video based on it or recasting it as a press release for local media. Invite your readers to share your posts, as well, by including sharing buttons for ShareThis, Reddit, RSS, etc.
4. Update your patient intake form
If your patient intake form doesn’t ask potential patients how they found you, it should. You can either ask an open-ended question — Where did you hear about us? — or include a list with check boxes for your major sources of referrals. Either way, you’ll gain invaluable insights as to exactly where best to expend your efforts.