Despite the availability of technology to continue patient conversations online, the foundation of medicine stems from face-to-face interactions. The heart and soul of healthcare lie in human contact, genuine concern, and empathy.  

Technology has allowed businesses to enhance the customer experience and provide a way to continue to learn outside of the examination room. However, in the digital age where patients are Googling and providers are Twittering, it can be easy to forget that a hug or a handshake is just as important as a smartphone and a prescription pad. Technological progress and the Internet have brought medicine a long way, but they mean nothing without a medium – a physician with a compassionate heart – to communicate and translate the results of such medical progress to the patient in language that can be understood.

When executed properly, social media in healthcare exists to bridge the gap between the scholar and the layman. But “Dr. Google” is not who your patient is paying to see. Doctors and other medical providers have to help dilute the medical misinformation available online. But not to the extent that the patient becomes secondary. They should always be the priority.

When you are in the exam room, do you set aside time to get to know a patient? Do you ask how he is doing, or what sort of personal issues he has that may be affecting his health? Do you put aside your EMR tablet and make eye contact? Do you smile? Do you try to make a personal connection with him? Simple gestures such as these become easily overlooked when the “social” aspect becomes overshadowed by the “media.”

Medical marketing via social media has led to major advances in the way physicians provide primary care. It can help a physician reach a patient beyond the doors of the medical practice – beyond that annual or semi-annual checkup. Social media can connect a provider to a patient who has a concern or even an emergency outside of office hours. It even allows providers to help people outside of their community through information sharing. But in order to reach the patient through social media, the patient must first feel comfortable enough to go to the physician. These Internet advances mean nothing if there is not first trust – a human connection – between a doctor and his patient.

Loving your Facebook page doesn’t have to be a detriment to your practice! Develop your inbound and social media marketing strategy in a way that encourages positive growth, both for your practice and for your patient relationships. So keep tweeting and updating those statuses – just not while you’re in the room with your patient!