The American College of Physicians (ACP) announced recently that physicians looking to increase their online presence and brand need to “proceed with extreme caution on social media”, especially when engaging with patients. As online and social channels becomes more enticing for physicians as a cheaper alternative than traditional media outlets for medical marketing and personal branding, some common sense and awareness must be utilized.

doctors, social media

Some of the notable recommendations from the ACP press release include:

  • Physicians should not “friend” or contact patients through personal social media.
  • Physicians should keep their professional and personal personas separate.
  • Establishing a professional profile so that it “appears” first during a search, instead of a physician ranking site, can provide some measure of control that the information read by patients prior to the initial encounter or thereafter is accurate.
  • Encouraging education programs that take a pro-active approach to a person’s digital image or online reputation
  • If a person reaches out to a doctor through electronic means and it is not an patient, physicians should use their judgment and usually encourage the person to schedule an office visit or go to the emergency room, whichever is more appropriate

Social media can be a great outlet for physicians to help educate the population, showcase innovative procedures and demonstrate their abilities with case study profiles. Physicians are encouraged to establish their own professional profile which will assist in controlling the amount of accurate information patients discover when using online searches. It is important that physicians take ownership of their search ranking because many patients rely on physician ranking sites or review sites to provide them with information.

There are many examples of physicians who are both visible and active on social media channels, and when executed properly, there are many patient and marketing benefits.

  • Higher visibility and more exposure for your practice
  • Establish yourself as a thought leader or expert within your specific industry
  • Control of your online brand
  • Increase in web traffic
  • Increase in web referrals or conversions
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Library of information for potential patients
  • Promotion of “Before and After” procedure results
  • A trusted resource for reliable procedure information

The inclusion of social media into an online medical marketing strategy is a logical step given the number of benefits; just remember to use common sense and “proceed with extreme caution.”