Marketing to Physicians Social Media

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram best for physicians? Dr. Kevin Pho (KevinMD) Answers.

Dr. Kevin Pho has long been a healthcare celebrity on my “must-meet-one-day” list. I have been a fan of his site for years. I especially enjoy the stories of triumph and frustration from doctors on the front lines. It’s one of my go-to sources for the physician’s perspective.

I had the opportunity to sit down for a quick conversation with Dr. Pho after he presented a session on the use of social media to connect with patients and peers.

This is a summary of that rapid-fire conversation…minus all my fanboy stuff.

Should physicians choose Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram to get started?

I think many people make the mistake of picking the platform first when you should really get clear on your goals first. Once you do that, THEN you can pick the best platform that matches those goals.

To me, each platform has a specific audience that it’s best suited for.

If connecting with patients is your goal, then blogging or Facebook – especially with its ability to target specific people in a region – is probably your best bet. Both offer tons of flexibility when it comes to images, video and text.

If you want to connect with colleagues then I have found Twitter to be the best platform. There are lots of thought-leaders and knowledgeable people there. I’ve met a lot of like-minded people on Twitter.

Instagram is an up-and-coming platform in healthcare. It’s especially useful for people who are visually oriented. The picture capabilities on Instagram are perfect for people that think in pictures first. I see a lot of plastic surgeons, dermatologists, for example, using Instagram.

You didn’t mention LinkedIn, is that platform useful for physicians?

Didn’t mean to overlook LinkedIn. It’s certainly valuable. Simply having a profile on LinkedIn can help a physician and their practice. It can be as simple as a transcription of your CV. Having it on the platform allows you to leverage LinkedIn’s powerful SEO capabilities. When people Google for physicians, a fully fleshed out LinkedIn profile can rank highly.

Open vs Closed Social Media Platforms? (ie: Twitter vs Doximity)

Each of these platforms serve a very different purpose. Doximity to me is like the LinkedIn of medicine – or at least similar in the sense that it is trying to solve the problem of getting physicians to connect with one another. The fact that Doximity is closed makes it safer for participants. One of the smartest things they did was tie their Doximity profiles to US News and World Reports. So if that’s something you care about then you kind of have to be on Doximity. I would say Doximity has a lot of value if a physician is just looking for a minimum online presence.

Is there a right-way vs wrong-way for physicians to use their voice on social media?

We live in a very polarized time. Everyone is very opinionated on social media right now. I think many of us are living in a bubble where we don’t want to listen to dissenting or uncomfortable positions. We’d rather tune them out. That’s natural, but there’s also a danger with that approach. It means that we might not be as open to examining our own perspective and our own beliefs as we once did.

There are some doctors who are very political and express their views openly on social media. There is nothing inherently wrong with that or bad about that. BUT you should be prepared that at least ½ your audience will likely not agree with you. If you are prepared for that, then that’s fine. You should use social media in a way that you are comfortable with. It’s all about that personal comfort level.

Think about the opposite. If you don’t express some sort of opinion on social media then you probably sound like a passionless robot and who wants to listen to a robot? No one. You have to find your unique online voice.

How would you describe your online voice?

I’ve been doing this a long time. Since 2004. Over the years I’ve been able to refine my online voice. I’m not a shade thrower and I don’t write bombshells just to get clicks on my site. I do, however, write about some controversial topics, not because they are controversial, but because I want to explore them and because it matters to physicians.

I would divide my audience, or in fact any audience, into thirds. One third of the audience is going to agree with whatever you say. Another third is going to disagree with whatever you say. The final third sits between the other two. They are the people that are undecided about you and the topic. I write for that middle third. I don’t want to write for the people who just agree with me, nor do I want to try and convince the people who have an argent polar-opposite view. I want to talk to the audience that is open to getting perspective on a topic.

What are some hot topics that you are writing and posting about right now?

We live in tumultuous healthcare times, so anything related to healthcare reform and healthcare payment reform are hot right now. I think a lot of people are particularly interested in the intersection of politics and the direction of healthcare reform at the moment.

I think it is very important for physicians to have a voice in these areas. We need to make sure our voices are heard by policy-makers and decision-makers. We need to share our stories and paint a clear picture of what it’s really like in practices and hospitals right now. Highlighting the reality of the current situation in healthcare is something doctors can do.

It’s very important, for example, for physicians to really talk honestly about how EHRs have impacted their relationships with patients. That story needs to be told.

There have been a lot of posts on KevinMD lately about physician burnout. What are your thoughts on that?

It’s absolutely critical that we value time as the scarce resource it is. We have to value the time that the clinician spends with patients. We need to move away from the productivity model in healthcare. One of the biggest mistakes we made in the US was rewarding productivity and activity. The more patients you see, the more revenue you make. We know now that wasn’t such a great way to incentivize healthcare.

We also have to be cognizant of the time that clinicians spend doing non-clinical things. Over 50% of the day is now spent on non-clinical tasks: filling out forms, entering stuff into medical records. We really can’t add any more non-clinical duties onto a clinician’s plate.

Valuing a physician’s time is one of the best ways to help reduce burnout.

What are you excited about in healthcare right now?

Watching how healthcare adapts to new technologies has been fascinating. We tend to move at a glacial pace in healthcare. There’s a joke “What’s trending right now will be something healthcare thinks about in 5 years”. That’s kind of true. Just look at what’s happening in the digital and publishing world. Things change in a blink of an eye. That doesn’t really happen in healthcare.

I’m excited to see what trends are happening in other industries and see how they might apply to healthcare. It’s been exciting to see how healthcare has adapted to things like social media, video calling/telehealth, online advertising and online reviews.

You’ve been doing this for 14 years. What keeps you motivated?

Social media is the most powerful platform that a lay-person can use to have their voice heard. Before social media you’d have to be on TV or in the paper and even then, you would have a limited geographic reach. Now with social media, your voice can carry across the world.

There aren’t that many places online where doctors, physicians and clinicians can share their stories and their knowledge. Being one of the few places for them, continues to be very exciting. As long as there is a need for that and as long as I can continue to be a place to help bring their voice forward, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing.

About the author


Colin Hung

Colin Hung is an award-winning Marketing Executive with more than 15yrs of healthcare and HealthIT experience. He co-founded one of the most popular healthcare chats on Twitter, #hcldr and he has been recognized as one of the “Top 50 Healthcare IT Influencers”. Colin’s work has been published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, American Society for Healthcare Risk Managers, and Infection Control Today. He writes regularly for Healthcare Scene and here at Colin is a member of #pinksock #TheWalkingGallery and is proudly HITMC. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

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