IT is now 4 years since I initially published this post, but this a message that bears repeating.  Despite the clear fact that we as providers are clearly public facing, many  providers, institutions or members of the healthcare enterprise world are still ruminating over the upsides — and potential downsides of a wide reaching, multiple digital property~ *new media* presence.

From 2010 ..

Physicians, Healthcare and Social Media…

As Ted Eytan found out when he questioned the (anonymous) physicians on Sermo —  many physicians are simply not interested in establishing an online social media presence.   Why … most state (??with some naiveté??) that “risk” is the overwhelming variable they’re concerned with.  Yet, I imagine some of these very same physicians are the same ones with static Web (-)0.5 type platforms who state that they “are the best”, the premiere practice”, utilize state of the art modalities, etc.  There’s probably more risk involved in their promotional language then a venture along well trodden social media circles where we have *established* and have discussed on multiple occassions what many of the risks entail and how to avoid the landmines that  exist .

Many physicians also state that they are not interested in healthcare related social media endeavors because they do not feel that there is a pot of gold at the end of the healthcare-social media rainbow.

Social Media Use in an Active Healthcare Practice…

If the past two week scales or even maintains the level of new patients (7-10%)[addendum 1/26/2012: now averaging 12-15%] {addendum: 11/2015: 65% have seen my site before seeing me. 18-20% state my site made their decision on who to see easier)] entering my office because of my social media presence AND the information presented on my website … then I can emphatically state that the ROI of your time, resources and the presentation of your content in a transparent, meaningful, evidence based (if possible) manner — will pay off quite well for your practice.  Perhaps even far more important than that (and a more difficult to measure ROI), the patients will be entering your office far better prepared, far better informed, and far more comfortable.   That means they will already have a reasonable understanding of what they might be suffering from, they will be far more comfortable with you because they have seen your videos and are comfortable with your demeanor and presentation —and all this, in the end makes your *job* in the office far more engaging, more productive and more efficient.

So, to recap …. When your blog or website presents meaningful content without the commercialized hype sooooo many marketers are pushing you to use — patients will …

1. Find you ( because of your digital property exposure)

2. Like  you (if they don’t like your videos or content, they’re not coming to your office)

3. Probably *trust* you more than a doc they found in the phone book

4. Interact in the office with you in a far more efficient manner since they already have digested the content you presented to them online — which you can re-visit right then and there to reinforce what you have just told them.

5. Dramatically improve your patient satisfaction scores … (data available on request :-))

Why Should Physicians Engage in Social Media…

In the end… my presence online is to support the spread of meaningful, trustworthy, evidence based (when available), actionable information and guidance to patients and consumers from around the world.  I am personally not looking at my engagement  from an ROI perspective… I continue to feel that physicians have a moral obligation to fill Google’s servers with quality content to drown out the commercialized nonsense that exists online today … but for those of you in search of bringing patients in your door — the message here is clear. It works… it’s happening … and it’s the message, social media is only the medium — and the risk is manageable.






Disclaimer:  this information is for your education and should not be considered medical advice regarding diagnosis or treatment recommendations. Some links on this page may be affiliate links. Read the full disclaimer.

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About the author:

Howard J. Luks, MD

Howard J. Luks, MD

A Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon in Hawthorne, NY. Dr. Howard Luks specializes in the treatment of the shoulder, knee, elbow, and ankle. He has a very "social" patient centric approach and believes that the more you understand about your issue, the more informed your decisions will be. Ultimately your treatments and his recommendations will be based on proper communications, proper understanding, and shared decision-making principles – all geared to improve your quality of life.

34 comments on “Healthcare and Social Media… the ROI is Real, but the *Message* Matters

  • Great post from somebody who lives the message.

    Key quotes: 7-10% of new patients enter my office because of my social media presence AND the information presented on my website. Physicians must fill Google servers with quality content to drown out commercialized hype – makes business sense too.

    Indeed @hjluks is one of the kind – he’s capable, real and he’s passionate about the message – provide quality info to pts.

    He’s a natural born blogger – a publisher – not a polisher of the 50th version of an article.

  • As someone from the other side of the pond I’m very grateful for your insights as always. Implicit in your writing is the view of the patient as a consumer, something that is only emerging in the UK, and within the NHS that is partly being driven my government policy.

    I would love to know how google searches are different in the US to the UK. Does a lot of commercial content really surface on the first page? I don’t know if you saw it but there was a fascinating conversation on my blog about this last year.

    Thanks again

  • Thank you for this ‘non-mind blowing’ post. It still rings true for a vision of future: one patient one physician working in together to improve HC and outcomes. What is old is new.

    I wonder if your ROI can be taken a step further can improved patient outcomes be demonstrated when compared to ‘static web’ HCP? Are the patients who enter your practice through your e-portal of a different segment and therefore more prone to improved outcomes? Or can we measure this type of portal and communications produces more durable outcomes when compared to similar patients without the benefit of your e practice? Of course to do this is major undertaking but over time as more practices move to this will we see changes in patient care and outcomes?

    • Mark,
      I was hoping someone would ask that :-) I am looking to study it. Not an easy study to construct and control — but working on it. I can certainly tell you that satisfaction scores improve… but the validity of those are obviously low. My patients who have read the information online and via some other documents I give them seem very content with their level of preparation — and already know what to expect and what is expected of them.

  • Refreshing to see a physician embracing the reality of the media landscape. I work as Director of Communications for Signature HealthCare (long term care); we view the digital revolution more as an opportunity than a threat. Our CEO forwarded your blog to me; great stuff; will promptly subscribe/ follow etc.

    Cheers –

  • “If the past two week scales or even maintains the level of new patients (7-10%) entering my office because of my social media presence AND the information presented on my website”

    So, you’ve only been doing 2 weeks of your social media efforts to find patients? I’d like to learn more about what you did. Or have you been doing it much longer and you’re just sharing the cumulative effects that now you’re receiving?

    I love social media as a way to connect people. I use it like crazy to promote many of my online properties. I just haven’t quite gotten the right model for it to bring patients into doctors offices. So, I’d love to learn more, but my feeling is that it won’t be much different than my experience with social media. It’s not a quick fix, but requires a slow, sustained effort to reach the social media patient nirvana.

    • John… I honestly believe the secret sauce is the message — and the manner in which it is delivered. People are tired and cynical of static Web 0 pages that state the improbable fact that they are “the best”, the brightest” “the most advanced”, etc… Consumers are looking for information. If they tear something they want all their options. If there are alternatives they want to hear them and they want to know what their functional outcome might be after they have made a choice. I have received requests from all over the world for visits over the last few months after eFoxPractice and I re-configured my site. Consumers will come if they like you, and your message. Social media is just the platform or the medium. Unfortunately, not many people have figured out how to utilize it *properly*.

      thx for your comments.

  • I think you are confusing social media (twitter, facebook, etc) with having a website. My guess if you go back and ask your patients most went to your website. If you have your “data” broken down into website vs social media you might reblog on what it is telling yoiu. thanks bill

    • Bill… I did not break down the data during in my post because I did not think the details were particularly relevant… I apologize for that. When someone tells me or notes on our intake sheets that they found me through the internet — I will ask where. Many find me through google which may refer them to youtube, twitter or facebook. Some will be referred to my blog. The patients will then find the website through the links on Tw or FB. Of the 7-10% of patients who have arrived in my office through an “internet” introduction — over 50% were initially on a social media platform and then landed on my site. Hope this clarifies things.

  • Thank you Dr. Luks for embracing the positives of the future of Hospital Marketing and Digital. There is a significant gap between today’s hospital marketing landscape and that predicted for 2013. As hospital marketers are being challenged to handle more channels and platforms, we decided to conduct a crowdsourced survey on Emerging Marketing. 101 respondents completed the survey from a variety of healthcare systems and hospitals including many of the nation’s most renowned organizations. We’d love for you to take a look. To our knowledge, this is the first time crowdsourcing has been used in the hospital industry.

    Thanks again for being at the forefront of this positive change.

    • Interesting study… #s not necessarily surprising. The issues I find with trying to engage institutions or the device makers is that most do not have a true well designed strategy. Instead of looking inside to see what they would like to show the world — they head outside to hire companies to tell them what to do. They creates a big disconnect. IMHO. The entities who are considering venturing online… love the thought of video, their own networks providers, FB, Tw, etc…. YET, they can’t boil down their *campaign* into a single paragraph and articulate their overall strategy as an elevator pitch. They are not sure which centers of excellence to push or what drives eyeballs. Device manufacturers, like pharma are afraid of ADRs, etc. After *doing* this for a number of years, and working with a fair number of clients too, it has become obvious that there are a ton of garbled messages out there… all without enough engagement and transparency. This too shall change :-) Thanks for stopping by!

  • Dr. Luks, thanks for the post and your continued push on health care social media. It’s got to be physician driven and the best way to convince physicians is to have one of their peers leading the charge. As an administrator for Duke Orthopaedics, I have, with a small slice of my time, led the charge on web and social media efforts through a revamped website and establishing social media presences to build communities, engage, and educate. However, what started out as a grassroots effort has grown appreciably over the last few months. I’ve learned quickly through reading up on free resources like your blog and I would love to see some of your patient satisfaction data. As I continue to try and champion social media, this would be very useful! Thanks in advance for your help!

  • Great post, Howard! It’s nice to see that a return is present even when that’s not the driving force behind the social media efforts.

    I really like your secondary benefit (the one that’s harder to measure). The fact that patients are entering your office far more educated and comfortable allowing you to perform your ‘job’ in a much more engaging, productive and efficient manner. You are right, this is much harder to measure, but should not be ignored as a benefit (or return).

    One approach to measuring this benefit would be to compare how much time would be required during an office visit to get the ‘traditional’ patient (did NOT view your blog, videos, etc.) to the same level of understanding and comfort as the ‘informed’ patient. This delta in time could certainly be used to measure the benefits of your social media efforts.

    Just out of curiosity, do you have any estimates on what this time delta might be?

  • Howard,

    As usual, you are spot on! What a strong testimony!

    How bout a trip to beautiful Chicago? Say, July 14th? Say 3:00 to be on a panel at a PWH sponsored event downtown?! (Professional Women in Healthcare)

    Thank you for your transparency and holy cow, 7-10% is a big deal! Way to trail blaze!!!!

    Love it Love it Love it.

  • Excellent work Dr. Luks!

    As a representative of a company that integrates clinical aromatherapy with today’s medical expertise, I am extremely passionate about this subject. I believe ALL parties involved have a “moral obligation to fill Google’s servers with quality content”. Despite the possible financial rewards that come from such an engaging platform, it is imperative that we begin with the “Message”!

  • I love this. As always, crisp, clear, articulate, and to the point.
    Along the same lines, I just had this post published in AdAge around “risk” — it’s focused on the CMO and social media, and hits many of the same points you’ve made. We’ve seen this come to life in industry after industry, so it’s nice to see the clarity you bring around docs and healthcare. Thank you.
    Glenn (@glennengler)

  • Whether or not physicians adopt social media, our patients certainly are doing so. Physicians must engage to know what is evolving for patients in the space. including Advocacy groups and discussions in blogs,, twitter, facebook and now the most powerful social media platform….in the Google Hangout where I have been in discussions on sexual ambiguity, degenerative neurologic diseases. Many of the participants openly waive HIPAA to discuss something with me to bypass the insanity of waiting on the phone triage system, getting an appointment, going to the office to sit in a waiting room with infectious diseases.
    I cannot judge the privacy issue, but if it is explained to me that the patient doesn’t care I will give advice with the usual precautions, ie not a diagnosis, no treatment recommendations, and an offer to refer them to the appropriate provider.

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