Dr. Kaplan, founder/CEO of BuildMyBod Health recently wrote an article on social media for the benefit of healthcare providers. Many are reluctant to use social media in their practice but Dr. Kaplan explains how they’re missing out on an amazing opportunity to educate their patients. You can listen to the article here, from a very exuberant and dramatic voiceover professional, or you can continue reading below.
The past is behind us! The future is social media
In the past, consumers found their doctors through physician referrals and word of mouth. Then it was the yellow pages giving way to the internet, a doctor’s website, and Google. But speaking as the founder/CEO of an online marketplace for health care services and a practicing cosmetic surgeon, I believe the way in which a consumer chooses a doctor is changing drastically. Rather than relying on typical search engines or the curated pages of the doctor’s website, consumers are turning more and more to social media. Nowhere is this more evident than in the cosmetic surgery specialty. But make no mistake, what I am suggesting will affect all doctors offering elective services—which probably means you!
So, when we refer to social media, are we talking about Twitter or Facebook? Not even close! The level of engagement that is connecting patients with doctors like never before is via Instagram, Instagram Stories, Facebook Live and Snapchat. Currently, patients want to choose a physician they can “get to know” on social media. They’re looking for a doctor who’s willing to be broadcast working in the operating room or clinic, and they even want a glimpse of the doctor out of the office. Consumers don’t consider going to see a doctor because they published a paper or because they presented at a meeting. The consumer is unaware of your expertise unless they see it on TV or social media. To appreciate this unprecedented level of transparency, a basic understanding of these platforms is necessary.
After their purchase by Facebook five years ago, Instagram now has 500 million daily active users. The Instagram app is a scrolling wall (referred to as the “feed”) of seemingly endless rows of three photos arranged side by side, each with their own caption and set of hashtags. Hashtags are essentially keywords within the caption or comments of the Instagram post. If one is looking for a particular topic on the Discover page of Instagram, there’s a good chance they’ll find what they’re looking for based on the hashtags associated with that Instagram post. And if your practice has an Instagram page, you’ll receive traffic from consumers who first sought you out through the Instagram Discover page. By having content for consumers who “follow” your page, you’re now top of mind if they or a friend or relative need your medical skillset.
Instagram Stories/ Snapchat
Still photos found on Instagram are fine. But the “truest” impression of a doctor, from the consumer’s perspective, is on the physician’s Instagram Stories/Snapchat account. This is where informal 10–15 second video clips come together to create a 24-hour story that reveals the doctor and staff in the operating room and/or clinic. This is the greatest technique to engage with viewers and let them get to know the practice. From procedures to office goings-on, the doctor and staff become more approachable. The viewer also has the opportunity to ask questions while watching the video. So the physician or assistant can respond and educate. See an example of an Instagram feed or Instagram Stories at @RealDrBae.
An important distinction between Instagram Stories/Snapchat and Facebook Live is the difference between “live” and “almost live.” For Instagram Stories/Snapchat, the doctor records an interesting procedure. Then they choose to post it to the platform for all to see. Facebook Live, on the other hand, is truly live, streaming video. Delayed posting (after review) to Instagram Stories/Snapchat minimizes exposure from a medicolegal perspective. So while your content appears real and authentic to the audience, there is the ability to curate it.
In my experience most patients will gladly sign a consent if there are no identifying marks. In fact, they want to be part of the educational process for other patients. As your practice incorporates social media into your daily routine, most consults will be from patients that want to be on social media. So they will already be expecting to be a part of this process.
Social media is not about dancing in the operating room or dressing up in silly outfits (which some doctors do!). For years, physicians have lamented the low quality of information our patients are finding on the internet. Currently, doctors limit their education to one patient at a time. That means we’re limiting our outreach to a relative handful of individuals. Patients are not going to stop accessing the internet for medical information. That gives us the opportunity to provide them with alternative, more accurate sources of education. And the most engaging and far-reaching method of providing this information is through the physician’s social media account.
I feel your pain
It is understandable why physicians, already dealing with the burdens of EMRs and insurance reimbursement, would want to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to social media. There’s a very steep learning curve, and because of the time commitment, it requires buy-in from all employees. Yet there is an enormous opportunity to be successful on social media right now. Why? Because most doctors wouldn’t consider bringing social media so actively into their practice. That reason alone will separate those who embrace social media from their competition. When I hear doctors say, “but no one in my field really does that,” my reply is “and that’s exactly the reason why you should!”
Jonathan Kaplan, MD, is a board-certified plastic surgeon based in San Francisco and is the founder/CEO of BuildMyBod Health, an online marketplace for health care services.