Physician Social Media Physician Social Networks Social Media

Physicians’ Growing Use of Social Media. What Does It Mean?

(For the next couple of months, my healthcare marketing intern, Charles Ramsey, will be helping to co-author a number of blog posts as well as research potential topics. This is the first post in that series. Enjoy!)

Recently, a number of studies, including those by the Journal of General Internal Medicine, Pew Internet & American Life Project, Frost & Sullivan, and QuantiaMD, point toward physicians’ rapid adoption of social media. Gabriel Bosslet, MD, quoted in a recent article, claims that the “rise in social media has been meteoric” amongst physicians.  According to Bosslet, the number of physicians active on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter is increasing so quickly, that his study regarding the phenomenon was already outdated by the time of its official release.  To some, this revelation may be startling, but it should not be a complete surprise given how popular social media has become in recent years and physicians’  rate of adoption.

A poll by the Pew Internet and American Life Project has projected that 65% of the online adults use social media. Fairly expected, right?  The surprise to some, however, may come in the form of a survey by QuantiaMD (which surveyed 4,032 physicians) which states that nearly 90% of physicians have operated at least one social media site. But the question is: How are physicians using social media? Studies are showing that physicians have tended to stick to managing personal profiles on their social media accounts, which, consequently, has limited the possibility of physician-to-patient communication through online means. There’s very little patient engagement and interaction taking place.

Mary Modahl, chief communications officer for QuantiaMD, says that connecting with patients through popular online sites “crosses over a professional/personal line that physicians would like to draw as a fairly bright line.” That coupled with physicians being largely unaware of online-patient communities, as she states, seems to account for the lack of physician-to-patient communication.  Fortunately, not all hope is lost. Modahl believes that the future holds possibilities for increased online communication between both sides once physicians are more aware of the demand for engagement on behalf of those frequenting online patient communities.

While physicians may need some time to warm up to this idea, they may have to get with the program fairly quickly given the comments made by Frost & Sullivan health care market researcher Nancy Fabozzi. According to Fabozzi, patients want online communication with their physician at the rate of expedience and efficiency that social media allows. What do you think? For more information on the topic, click here.

(Post written by Dan Dunlop with Charles Ramsey, Jennings Healthcare Marketing Intern and Wake Forest University student)

3 comments on “Physicians’ Growing Use of Social Media. What Does It Mean?

  1. Hi Dan and Charles,

    You make an important point that isn’t highlighted enough when these studies come out. I don’t think this is a case of “physicians need to get with the program,” though. (That would be blaming the user, and that’s usually wrong person to blame.) Instead, technology needs to continue to adapt to this special kind of communication.

    While patients “want online communication with their physician at the rate of expedience and efficiency that social media allows,” this doesn’t mean it needs to or should happen over social media as we know it today. More innovation is needed to provide a means that offers the appropriate professionalism, privacy and protocol. There is some good innovation going on in this space, and room for plenty more.


    • dandunlop

      Moses, thanks for your insightful feedback. You make an excellent point about not blaming the user. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

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