Sunday, July 25, 2010

Doc Com

According to a study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, more than 61 percent of adults use the Internet to look up health care information and find providers.

Another study, by Manhattan Research, shows that 60 percent of physicians say they currently use or want to use social networking sites.

Health care providers today don't have the time to spend with patients like they did in past eras. And patients are feeling more and more disconnected from their doctors.

Some doctors are taking advantage of the opportunity social media provides to form more of a bond with their patients. They don't use these tools to diagnose or treat illnesses, but merely to connect with their patients in a more personal way. And to provide them with information that they know is reliable. 

The MacArthur OB/GYN group in Irving, Texas, has a Facebook page with almost 700 members. Its posts include educational articles about Iron-Deficiency Anemia, chiropractic care during pregnancy and new 4-D sonogram technology. But it also engages in chit chat, asking members what they "plan to get Dad for Father's Day." And invites them to beta test a new online appointment scheduling program. 

For women in the Irving area looking for a good OB/GYN, the camaraderie and happy, satisfied chatter of the women on its Facebook page certainly must make MacArthur an attractive practice to consider. 

Then there are the world-renown clinics that have more patients than they have beds. These are often affiliated with teaching hospitals at universities.

They don't need more patients. They need funding.

A lively, loyal and enthusiastic patient following demonstrates to potential benefactors that their money will be going to a worthy cause. A Facebook group page is an easy way to build such a community.

One of the main concerns many doctors have about dipping their toes in social media is the amount of time they themselves will have to dedicate to such an endeavor. The co-chair of a well-known treatment facility at a university asked me this very question last week.

My answer was that he could put as much or as little time into it as he wants. The agency could do the heavy lifting. And there are probably plenty of people – staff and students –who would actually find the work fun. 

It's not a return to the house calls of the old days. But social media does give doctors a way to drop into people's homes, nonetheless.

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