According to a recent study, more than 80 percent of Americans now turn to the Internet for answers to their medical concerns. This statistic means that only one out of every five patients you see will actually come to you first for information and advice. However, recent studies have also shown that patients still consider physicians to be the most trusted source of health-related information. This seems like a contradiction. If patients find physicians to be the most trustworthy source of advice, why are 80 percent of them turning to Dr. Google instead?
Times have changed, and as information becomes more accessible, face-to-face interaction takes a backseat to convenience.
As a physician, this study may not surprise you, but it does impact you in more ways than you probably realize. If you find yourself thinking that online health forums and social media sites will one day make medical practices a thing of the past, you’re not alone. This hesitation keeps many physicians from considering a social media marketing strategy. You may feel that by getting onboard with the “social media revolution,” you will only be speeding up an inevitable journey into obsoleteness. But this isn’t the case.
Fears that the faceless Internet will overtake your practice are unfounded, because regardless of technological developments, health is still a very personal and private matter. Patients want and need that personal connection between themselves and their physicians, as well as a place where they can confide in privacy. But there will be times when patients are hesitant to call or visit their doctor with questions. Maybe it is because they have a medical concern which has manifested after office hours. Perhaps they don’t want to be a bother. Some may feel their questions are silly or unnecessary. Some may not have the time. And some may just forget.
And so patients turn to the Internet for answers, regardless of how accurate they are. Many patients don’t realize that most pieces of medical information found on the Internet cover a broad spectrum of situations. Just as every person is different, so is every person’s medical diagnosis. It is important for patients to realize that sites such as WebMD are no substitute for proper medical treatment. They also need to realize that information found on forum sites like MedHelp.org comes from a variety of sources, not all of which are trustworthy or vetted.
If your patients are out there surfing the web and bringing in pages and pages of printed data that isn’t always applicable or appropriate, shouldn’t there be something you can do to help? This is why social media in the healthcare industry is important. The advantage of social media stems from the accessibility of the Internet. It is everywhere – at home, at work, at school, and even on mobile phones. If you know that your patients are there because it’s more convenient than coming to you, then why not go to them? You have an obligation to take care of them. Doesn’t it make sense to ensure that their answers are coming from you? It would bring peace of mind to you both.
The world of social media can bring uncertainty. Some physicians hesitate to make a social media launch because of fears about privacy or malpractice. We here at MindStream Creative understand. If you’re interested in social media but are hesitant to take that first step, contact us. We can discuss your concerns and provide you with information to ease your anxiety. We can tailor a medical marketing solution that can best fit your practice and grow one of the most important things of all – the patient relationship.