Getting patients to 'Like' your practice

December 3, 2010

By day, Michael Sevilla, MD, is a family physician in the small northeastern Ohio town of Salem, about 20 miles west of the Pennsylvania border. But at night, between visits, and during his lunch break, he's "Dr. Anonymous," posting updates to his blog of the same name, checking his Facebook page and Twitter feed, or recording his latest Web-based radio show.

 

Key Points

By day, Michael Sevilla, MD, is a family physician in the small northeastern Ohio town of Salem, about 20 miles west of the Pennsylvania border. But at night, between visits, and during his lunch break, he's "Dr. Anonymous," posting updates to his blog of the same name, checking his Facebook page and Twitter feed, or recording his latest Web-based radio show.

Sevilla launched his blog in 2006, but he's far from anonymous anymore-on his blog he posts photos and videos of himself that he's made, as well as footage from his many local TV appearances. He's kept the pseudonym because the name just stuck, he says.

 

 

Some physicians' experience with Facebook and Twitter may be limited to what their children or other family members or friends have shown them, or they may have a personal Facebook page to connect with family and friends. There are approximately 150 million Facebook members in just the United States; chances are a lot of those users are your patients or potential patients.

We talked with social networking physicians and consultants about why social networking, namely the 2 most popular sites, Facebook and Twitter, can be effective, how physicians should approach the sites, and what types of content they should publish to the world.

IN THE BEGINNING...

 

Other social networking sites have gained popularity before it, but Facebook has emerged in the last 2 years as the dominant personal social networking site for Americans of all ages. It is the second most visited Web site in the country behind Google, according to Alexa Internet, which measures Web traffic.

In October, the Ohio State Medical Association (OSMA) released a toolkit, "Social Networking and the Medical Practice," which offers sample guidelines and best practices for doctors' interactions with patients online. The toolkit offers rules that a practice could include in its own employee handbooks for an acceptable online presence, says Nancy Gillette, general counsel for the OSMA.

 

A month later, the American Medical Association (AMA) issued its own set of recommendations for practices regarding social networking. Similar to OSMA's toolkit, the AMA urges physicians to "maintain appropriate boundaries of the patient-physician relationship when interacting with patients online and ensure patient privacy and confidentiality [are] maintained," and to "consider separating personal and professional content online."