Where physicians and referrals are concerned, there's one social networking tool that stands out above the rest.
Archives of Internal Medicine
Physicians were twice as likely to refer patients to a specialist in 2009 as they were a decade earlier, according to analysis of two national databases. No specific reason was given for the increase, but the potential impact of the analysis — published in a recent issue of (2012;172:163-170) — is positive, and a trend of sorts that physicians should take advantage of.
Most experts agree that physicians should use existing technology — such as blogs, Twitter, and their websites — to discuss the advances in medicine in layman's terms, explaining what each is and how it can help patients take better care of their health. Doing so positions a physician as a thought leader in his or her industry, someone who is clearly comfortable with cutting-edge technology, able to visualize how it will revolutionize health care and able to articulate it in layman's language.
But Kristina Jaramillo, a marketing expert with Gruber-Jaramillo Marketing, says that where physicians and referrals are concerned, there’s one social networking tool that stands out above the rest.
Getting linked in
Jaramillo points out that more than 150 million business professionals are on LinkedIn, and physicians can use this tool to build relationships with other physicians who need specialists in their areas of expertise, as well as develop and enhance relationships with their local media. Ninety-two percent of journalists are on LinkedIn, she says, which is more than any other social network.
Jaramillo prefers LinkedIn because “it’s the stronger professional network and there isn’t the excess social noise. It’s people who are looking to do business, looking to learn, looking to gain knowledge, and how to improve their business; so they’re all there with specific goal in mind.” Those abusing the social networking tool by being too promotional rather than learning and gaining knowledge from other users will quickly be booted out of the professional group in which they’re associated. “It’s a more credible network of affluent business leaders.”
Develop a strong profile
A LinkedIn profile, says Jaramillo, is not a quick copy and paste of your résumé. Rather, it’s a branding tool for marketing yourself and your practice.
For example, instead of a physician listing him or herself as simply an obstetrician, be specific with a statement like, “I’m a North Carolina high-risk OB who has a success rate of XX percent.” Using key words is important, Jaramillo points out, and will help you stand out against hundreds of other obstetricians in your area.
“From there you can join professional groups for doctors, and you can invite them to connect with you,” Jaramillo says. “Your profile is the tool for other health care professionals to learn about you. It’s where you get to show why you’re the best in your field. And a lot of people don’t like to brag about themselves. But if you don’t do it, no one else is going to do it for you. And if you have a strong profile, they’ll want to learn more about you, connect with you, maybe even contact you so you can converse via email, over the phone or meet in person.”
LinkedIn also offers an Amazon.com feature, so if you’re a published physician, you can include a link to your book in your profile information.
“You’re boosting your credibility, displaying your expertise, and making yourself standout from the crowed,” Jaramillo adds, “which is what LinkedIn is all about.”
Another good way to use LinkedIn to help build referral rates, says Jaramillo, is by establishing relationships with your local media. The articles a physician publishes, or is quoted in, can be passed on to other physicians and other physicians to their patients and family members. Mixing LinkedIn marketing with your public relations efforts, she explains, will automatically increase referral rates because you’re providing other physicians with a reason to pass on your information.
“Journalists work on a lot of referrals too within their own network,” Jaramillo says. “So, if you join either groups that medical journalists might be in or that medical bloggers might be in, you can show your expertise by posting discussions, posting articles links back to your blog, links back to either your company web site or your practice web site. That way, if something comes across their desk and they’re going to write an article where they need a physician source, they’ll know they can reach out and ask that doctor a few questions. And if they can’t get the information they need from one specific doctor, maybe he or she can refer them to another physician who might be more specialized.”
Jaramillo says using LinkedIn takes networking from the face-to-face mode and expands it exponentially.
“It gives you thousands of people to connect with,” she says. “Physicians can improve their practice’s bottom line by maximizing their referral rates.”