ORLANDO – Looking for a better way to reach your patients and guide them to being more engaged in their own health care? Then expand your social media presence.
That was the message Kevin Campbell, MD, a cardiologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, told attendees at the annual meeting of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.
“Social media is where our patients, customers, and consumers, as well as our colleagues are and where we need to be,” Dr. Campbell said.
He called out three specific social media tools – Twitter, Facebook Live, and blogging – as the most effective for physicians. The first two offer a key way to connect with patients and colleagues – the ability to use video.
“The most important thing out in the digital space in terms of engagement is video and the visual,” Dr. Campbell said. “You’ll get 6,000% more engagement with a video-type point of contact. That can be a link from Twitter or it can be a Facebook Live [session] or a YouTube video.”
Video messaging also helps doctors support their peers, Dr. Campbell said.
“We can provide timely information to our colleagues,” he noted. “We have Twitter chats with fellows-in-training … I can talk to fellows who are in Germany about a technique we’re using here and then they can learn more about that technique.”
Secure social media channels also can be used to share thoughts and ideas regarding a clinical query regarding a specific test or imaging result, he said.
“The patient benefits because there are more brains thinking about their problem,” he noted.
Blogging also can be effective for reaching out to patients and colleagues as it provides a way to disseminate information on topics such as new treatments or learning about disease states.
But if the blog is set up to be interactive, doctors can get insights into their patients’ health concerns, Dr. Campbell said.
“I let patients write on my blog and I actually learn a ton about the patient experience,” he said. “I don’t even think of X, Y, and Z situation. I will be more empathetic to this because of what [they] told me.”
The caveat, of course, is that specific, protected information cannot be shared or posted.
“The attorneys will really get upset,” he noted. “So you do not develop a legal duty to that patient. But you can talk about treatments and what’s out there and what’s available. ... There may be a new treatment for leukemia that’s experimental that’s coming out of a university in Philadelphia and I can talk about that treatment.”
Dr. Campbell also said social media can be effective for doctors to promote themselves, pointing to his own career where he serves as a regular commentator on both the national and local levels. Engaging with media outlets can help turn a doctor into a key opinion leader, he said.
“If you say something important, engage about important issues, patients, consumers, industry partners and other leaders in the field are going to engage with you,” he said.
Dr. Campbell reported no conflicts of interest.