I was honored to participate in a recent Orthopedics Today Round Table on the role of social media for orthopedists. The full article, “Social Media: Orthopedists Discuss its Role as Surgeon’s Friend, Foe or Both”, shares insights from leading orthopedists who have expertise in social media.  Moderated by B. Sonny Bal, MD, JD, MBA, the panel included:

 

  • Orin I. Franko MD, San Diego, CA
  • Jon Hyman MD, Atlanta, GA
  • Shawn W. Palmer, DO, Elgin, IL
  • Adam D. Soyer, DO, Poughkeepsie, NY
  • Howard J. Luks MD, Hawthorne, NY
 
I would like to share my thoughts and those shared by my colleagues in this excerpt focused specifically on the future of orthopedic social media. I encourage physicians and those interested in healthcare social media to read all the questions and answers in the full article.
 

Future for Orthopedic Social Media

 
Q: Where do you see the future of social media in terms of the professional lives of our orthopedic colleagues?
 
Howard J. Luks MD: More than 1 billion people simply cannot be wrong. The most commonly “liked” objects on Facebook right now are medications. The largest growing demographic on Facebook are women older than 40 years. Recent surveys have clearly shown that upwards of 75% of patients are researching their physicians and/or institution and disease process prior to arriving at our offices. A recent poll of patients revealed that the quality of the content and appearance of our websites entered into the patients’ decision-making process as to whether or not they were going to call the offices for appointments.
 
Every week, there is another disease-specific, patient-centric website appearing on the Internet. Patients are discussing their diseases, and they are talking about us. It behooves us be part of this discussion. It is imperative that we seek to provide useful content, control our message, foster our relevance, observe, maintain and manage our online reputation, and learn about any brewing firestorm long before it has an effect on the bottom line of our practice.
 
Many patients are becoming web savvy. They are being turned off by much of the commercialized nonsense that exists online today. They are hungry for information, and they are searching for it. Whether we agree with this trend or not is not particularly relevant. Patients are searching for information on Facebook. They are interacting with one another on Twitter. About 12% to 15% of patients who enter my office mention the Internet, Facebook or my website as the reason why they are present in my office.
 
A properly constructed web presence will also enable numerous efficiencies that will contribute to the bottom line of your practice as we face ongoing fiscal instability in the health care space. Patients who have actively explored your website, watched your videos and read through your comments and content will be prepared for their visits. This will result in a far more effective and efficient visit, and will also contribute to improving the patient’s experience — and thus, their desire to recommend you to their friends and acquaintances. I personally feel that to ignore the intersection of health care and social media, is to ignore your own potential relevance as a health care practitioner during the next decade.

Adam D. Soyer, DO: I believe that social media will continue to become increasingly important in our clinical and nonclinical/business practices. Social media will be instrumental in influencing the change in the direction of health care to a more patient-centered model. Ideally, this model will improve health care delivery while improving practice efficiency and outcomes.
 
Presently, our patients are actively engaged in social media and they continue to have a major impact on our professional reputations. It is conceivable that our future success may hinge on our online reputation. Changes in health care that will require quality metrics and outcomes reporting for reimbursement will result in more of our professional data becoming available to ePatients. The dissemination of this data in social media forums has the potential to adversely affect physicians’ reputations depending on interpretation. As a result, reputation management will become an important component of our future social media campaigns.
 
Shawn W. Palmer, DO: In my practice of nine surgeons, we have found tremendous benefit to our own internal “social media.” The ability to text a photo of an X-ray while on call or send out a group email with daily updates on patient concerns, office needs or hospital rounds has made a tremendous difference in efficiency and patient satisfaction. I no longer have a mailbox stuffed with weeks-old memos. I get messages instantly and often return patient calls or report test results within minutes rather than days.
 
Jon Hyman MD: Social media platforms will play an increasing role in our practices. These tools are paradigm shifting and in some ways disruptive technologies, analogous to other tools/tech that were slowly adopted in orthopedics such as artificial joints, the arthroscope, orthobiologics and others.
 
Unlike scalpels and drills, these Internet media tools do not dull with time. They get sharper and more beneficial the more we use them. “Social media” tools are already becoming an extension of the exam room, board room, operating room (OR) and OR lounge. Tools like iPads, OrthoMind.com, Skype, data clouds and others are ultimately going to make our professional lives and our patients lives better.
 
Orin I. Franko MD: I think the modern pressures facing physicians require individuals to connect, discuss and collaborate with colleagues but simultaneously discourage communication via time constraints and over-committed schedules. Thus, I think social media will serve as the platform that allows physicians to connect with each other, develop strong networks and communicate in ways that would not otherwise be possible. This applies to busy surgeons to an even greater degree based on the rapid pace of technological development.
 
If you are an orthopedic or health care professional waiting to dip your toe in the social media pool, let me help you get started.  Please contact me with any questions  you may have via email at  howard@howardluksmd.com or by phone at (908) 4HJ-LUKS  : (908) 445-5857.
 
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