Social Media: Secret Weapon in the Battle against Physician Burnout

burnout, social media, time saver

Physician burnout: You could say it’s a hot topic these days. From new research on its causes to seminars on how to avoid it, it seems you can’t read your mail or get online without coming across stories about the subject. The current issue of Modern Aesthetics, in fact, devotes, not just its cover (above) to the issue but a significant portion of the editorial content inside.

As the magazine notes, the problem is a big one — 45% of plastic surgeons and 43% of dermatologists experienced burnout, says the latest Medscape Lifestyle Report — and exacerbated by everything from longer hours and lower income to cranky patients and competitive pressures. The good news is that the magazine also includes several articles on ways to combat it, including one that some doctors may find surprising: Using social media as a time-saving tool.

It sounds counterintuitive — after all, creating videos, posting updates, creating videos, and answering online questions take time and energy — but, as RealSelf CEO Tom Seery writes,

The premise that social media is just a time sink is indeed true when used to redundantly post special offers on Facebook. But when approached strategically, social media actually saves time.

The operative term, of course, is “strategically.” Whether it’s answering online questions that may be viewed by thousands (vs. one-to-one responses via email) or posting videos that live on long after you shoot them, social content provides an alternative to what can otherwise add up to untold hours of repetitive and unproductive activity. As Seery writes,

You save time by not having to repeatedly create content from scratch; that content reaches a far larger audience than it would otherwise, and the people who engage with it become more-informed, better-educated consumers. For doctors, that means more qualified inquiries, more productive consultations, and a greater likelihood that those consumers will become patients.

Here are his tips on how to go about it:

What to share: The questions you come across — both in your practice and on third-party sites — offer direct, indisputable insight into the issues that aesthetic consumers hold most dear. As such, says Seery, they provide a solid framework for producing appropriate content, which can also be repurposed as videos, blog posts, and FAQs to be shared via other channels.

Where to share it: With so many social outlets to choose from, trying to engage in too many offers a straight shot to burnout. Which one(s) should you focus on? The one that actually engages potential patients, helps them resolve their aesthetic concerns, and prompts them to reach out for more information. As Seery writes,

Dig into your website analytics to see which ones deliver traffic to your practice website and which ones don’t and allocate resources accordingly. You don’t have to participate in every one and actually shouldn’t.

How to get it done: Certainly sharing social content requires a time commitment but it’s more easily managed when you make it part of your regular schedule rather than leaving it to random spare moments (that never actually happen). Some doctors respond to a handful of questions during lunch breaks; others delegate the job of updating Facebook or Instagram to staff members. As with anything else, the more often and more consistently you do it, the faster and better you get at it.

What not to do: As Seery notes, social media is less about the “media,” i.e., the platform, and more about the “social.” It’s not about broadcasting information about you; it’s about sharing information that aesthetic consumers are looking for. Funny thing, though — when you adopt the latter approach, those consumers inevitably learn a lot about you. By sharing your expertise, you can’t help but demonstrate your personality, individuality, and practice philosophy, traits that resonate with potential patients in ways purely promotional content simply can’t.

Adopting the above best practices can help forestall burnout in several ways. By minimizing repetitive routine tasks, it allows doctors to focus on providing more personal care. By engaging with potential patients online, they can make the kind of connections that lead to direct inquiries and subsequent consultations. And by taking a strategic approach, they can turn a potential time-suck into a time-saving tool that benefits all concerned.

As Santa Rosa, Calif.-based plastic surgeon Heather Furnas, MD put it,

There are days when I put in a little more time, but for the most part, it’s five to 10 minutes. It’s like anything else. There’s a learning curve, but if you invest the time, it can be really rewarding.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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