Social Media Pressure For Practices Intensifies


Chronicle of Medicine - Still not on the social media bandwagon? Think the Facebook fad will pass?

If so, consider these stats recently released from the Pew Research Center:

•    Sixty-five percent of all U.S. adults now use social-networking sites, up from 61 percent a year ago and up from a mere 5 percent in 2005.
•    On a typical day, 43 percent of U.S. adults said they visit sites such as Facebook and Twitter, up from 38 percent a year ago.
•    Among Internet users ages 50 to 64, social-networking usage on a typical day increased from 20 percent to 32 percent.

With numbers like these, it's no surprise that dermatologist Dr. Helen M. Torok recently raved that her practice's Facebook business page saves the office up to $5,000 every quarter by eliminating the need to publish a printed company newsletter.

"I don't see a downside," added Dr. Patricia K. Farris, whose dermatology practice has had a Facebook page for two years. "Patients will come in and tell us what they saw on our Facebook page."

But as recent cases have highlighted, these perks come with caveats.

"I think the most important thing with Facebook is that it allows you to separate your personal and professional identities," noted well-known physician blogger Dr. Kevin Pho. "I always advise doctors to take a dual-citizenship approach: having personal pages closed and only available to friends and family, then having more professional Facebook pages open to the public so your patients can see," said the internist.

A smart approach to social networking includes not only heeding to dos and don’t on the page itself but also holding staff members accountable for their personal online conduct when it reflects your practice.

Getting starting with building your social media presence is fairly easy. But as pediatric gastroenterologist and blogger Dr. Bryan Vartabedian warned, don't initiate a Facebook page for your practice until you're willing to commit to maintaining it.

In addition, make sure someone in your practice is responsible for keeping up with the changes to social media sites' functionality and privacy settings; that person can help adjust your strategy accordingly. For example, while Facebook has always required physician practices to allow users to post comments, it recently revoked an exception it had granted to drug makers, causing many pharmaceutical companies to pull their Facebook pages from the Web. Drug makers that already had robust comment-moderation policies in place were more likely to stay on Facebook.

Copyright 2012- National College of Physicians (NCNP.ORG)-All Rights Reserved


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