From surgical robots to the latest lasers, urologists love new technology. In health care, we tend to be the 1% driving innovation. Medical apps, health trackers, social media, and the ability to ask Siri (or for Amazon fans, Alexa) health-related questions have changed the entire landscape of how information is distributed. This is why urologists should be 100% at the forefront of digital platforms; this is where our patients are now socializing.
Here are some statistics to digest on the current impact of the Internet on our habits (courtesy of the Pew Research Center’s “Social Media Fact Sheet” and “Social Media and Health” report and the Health Research Institute’s “Social media ‘likes’ healthcare”):
- 86% of U.S. adults use the Internet.
- 1 out of 4 minutes in the U.S. are spent online.
- 80% of adults have looked online for health information, with 40% of these individuals looking specifically for a doctor by name or specialty.
- 165,000 (and growing) unregulated health apps are now available, of which 50% are free downloads.
- 1 out of 3 U.S. adults use social media for health discussions.
- 88% of physicians have used the Internet or social media for research on drugs or medical devices.
Before moving on with our discussion, it is important to remember that social media can be equally as bad as it can be good. Negative experiences can be filmed and made viral in a matter of seconds online. Patients can post as many bad reviews as good reviews. We have to be just as careful online as we are in our offices, especially when it comes to patient confidentiality.
In my opinion, professionally, it is safer to not engage patients on their individual medical problems on social media. However, discussing general medical topics should not be a problem. If someone comments or asks more questions, I tend to keep my discussions broad and general. I always add the tag line, “This is general information. For more specifics about your condition, please see your medical provider.” I recommend all physicians to stick this rule to avoid any HIPAA violations.
In today’s digital world, having an active professional presence online has become a must. Your digital presence can then be used to supplement your personal/professional or office marketing strategy. The reality is that the average patient no longer reads the newspaper or local lifestyle magazine, where we can appear on the cover for $1,000. For that amount, you can achieve a better return on investment online. You may not get that pretty picture you can frame on your wall, but you can get positive press and referrals. If cost is an issue, you can actually grow your practice on social media by simply having a presence.