In its 2011 clinical report on “The Impact of Social Media Use on Children, Adolescents and Families,” the AAP discusses the omnipresence of social media in the world of today's youth and stresses a parent's need to understand these technologies so they can relate to their child's online world and comfortably parent within it.
Amid the conversation, U.S. pediatricians are also beginning to focus on how to best use social media in their own world. An increasing number of physicians have begun to take ownership of social media as a relatively easy, cost-effective way to foster relationships with patients, enhance their practices' online presence and communicate their ideas as healthcare providers.
PCC's Chip Hart continued the dialogue at last week's PCC Users' Conference in Florida, when he discussed how pediatricians can build a positive online presence for their practice and prevent against the pitfalls associated with broadcasting their message on the web.
Hart's number one suggestion for physicians?
“There is no simple, single solution to the challenge of social media and your practice, but it's time to get on board,” Hart told UC attendees, citing physician bloggers who report that their social media presence attracts a significant number of new patients. “You are 'on' social media whether you like it or not, so you may as well try to shape the image of yourself and your practice.”
Tweeting, blogging, Facebook and other social media technology can be used by a practice to maintain a conversation with patients, inform patients of practice and other pediatric-related news and direct patients to reliable, fact-based sources of online information.
Inherent in the use of such powerful communication tools are challenges related to HIPAA and patient privacy and Internet use among employees. The answer to both these challenges, says Hart, is to extend your existing policies as much as possible rather than creating an entirely new social media policy from whole cloth.
While there is no “right answer” for what kind of Internet use should be allowed by employees during working hours, HIPAA issues, for example, are black and white.
Hart also pointed out some pitfalls often missed by practices, such as reviewing content posted to the practice WWW site for copyright issues. “Many a well meaning nurse or physician has posted un-attributed clinical content to the practice WWW site,” Hart says.
We live in a world where social media public property, so physicians should be aware of what is being said about them, whether they personally embrace social media or not. Hart suggests pediatricians monitor free review websites, such as Healthgrades, Vitals and Ratemds, not only as a way to improve healthcare but to protect against libelous information.
And physicians who do maintain practice websites can view these review websites as a vehicle for visibility. Participation in vitals.com and others can help increase a practice's website rankings and the number of patients visiting the site.