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How Are Physicians Using Social Media?

The time is approaching when businesses will want to capture the eyes and minds of physicians in the social world.  Throwaways and mailouts will give way to more current channels of communication.  Friends in the health
industry ask how they should connect with physicians using social media channels.

The rules really aren’t much different but here are a couple of things the consultants will never tell you:

I’m not on Sermo.  While Sermo and Ozmosis may seem like obvious targets, physician specific verticals are tricky.   The road to the successful physician network is littered with the skeletons of startups who went broke trying to capture our eyeballs.  While its hard to ignore Forrester’s bullish analysis of services like Sermo, I don’t
the enthusiasm to be sustained.  Look to the next iteration of IMedExchange to possibly be a game changer
in this area.  Until then, the connectors who are going to get you where you want to go aren’t necessarily hangin’
with other doctors.  They’re found in the wild.

We’re not talkin’ about pills.  If you listen to physicians on social platforms you may be surprised to learn that we’re not always talking about medicine.  Sure we chime in on healthcare reform and some are in it only to pimp their health sites and blogs, but the real conversations fall off center of traditional medical things.  While it’s
possible that the next generation of physicians will to use social networks primarily for the dissemination of professional information, I suspect that the way to a physician’s heart and mind is through the everyday dialog.

Remember the Law of the Few. In The Tipping Point (and long before Twitter) Malcolm Gladwell wrote about The Law of the Few which suggests that “the success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent
upon the involvement of a few people with a particularly rare set of social gifts.”  These few are referred to
as Connectors – those with a special gift for bringing the world together.  Look for physician connectors.  Listen to them and watch what they do.  Most organizations fail to make the meaningful connections with the real medical influencers that bear fruit on the major social platforms.

Look at Scott Monty. The health industry doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to connecting with someone like me.  I have always asked:  “Where’s the Scott Monty of healthcare?”  When will United Healthcare or Pfizer replicate the success of Ford?  It isn’t complicated.  Watch Scott on Twitter.  See how he connects.  Get a sense of how he makes people feel.  Watch where he speaks.  And who ever heard of an automobile company appearing at SXSW to offer free rides?  He had apparently.

A few healthcare socialites who are making great headway:  Marc Monseau (Johnson & Johnson), Greg Matthews (Humana), and Lee Aase (Mayo Clinic).

“90% of social is just showing up.” I took a lot of heat when I posted this quote on Twitter a few months back.  But I think there’s something to it.  Everyone wants to believe that social success comes from deep, ‘meaningful’ relationships.  These descriptors are relative in the virtual world.  Social media isn’t rocket science and simple visibility has real value when you’re starting out.  Find socially active doctors.  Be present. Be real. See how things evolve.

We’re not there yet. Be wary of industry-driven surveys fashioned to make you believe the medical world is spending all its time on Twitter or physician specific networks. The numbers of physicians meaningfully engaged isn’t substantial at this point.  That’s because we’re busy.  Windows of online opportunity with physicians are narrow.  Despite the digital idealism of Health 2.0, the art of medicine still involves one individual touching another.  And it’s hard to do that on Facebook.

As the next generation of wired physicians grow into positions of power, expect real online engagement to evolve as a meaningful avenue for interaction.  Until then, scrappy, smart, creative strategy that genuinely understands and respects the behavior of the social physician will rule the space.

*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*

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One Response to “How Are Physicians Using Social Media?”

  1. Mary K. flights says:

    If you listen to physicians on social platforms you may be surprised to learn that we’re not always talking about medicine. you take medicine if you are a bad condition?

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Richmond, VA – In an effort to simplify inpatient medical billing, one area hospitalist group has determined that “altered mental status” (ICD-9 780.97) is the most efficient code for use in any patient work up.

“When you enter a hospital, you’re bound to have some kind of mental status change,” said Dr. Fishbinder, co-partner of Area Hospitalists, PLLC. “Whether it’s confusion about where your room is located in relationship to the visitor’s parking structure, frustration with being woken up every hour or two to check your vital signs, or just plain old fatigue from being sick, you are not thinking as clearly as before you were admitted. And that’s all the justification we need to order anything from drug and toxin screens, to blood cultures, brain MRIs, tagged red blood cell nuclear scans, or cardiac Holter monitoring. There really is no limit to what we can pursue with our tests.”

Common causes of mental status changes in the elderly include medicine-induced cognitive side effects, disorientation due to disruption in daily routines, age-related memory impairment, and urinary tract infections.

“The urinalysis is not a very exciting medical test,” stated Dr. Fishbinder. “It doesn’t matter that it’s cheap, fast, and most likely to provide an explanation for strange behavior in hospitalized patients. It’s really not as elegant as the testing involved in a chronic anemia or metabolic encephalopathy work up. I keep it in my back pocket in case all other tests are negative, including brain MRIs and PET scans.”

Nursing staff at Richmond Medical Hospital report that efforts to inform hospitalists about foul smelling urine have generally fallen on deaf ears. “I have tried to tell the hospitalists about cloudy or bloody urine that I see in patients who are undergoing extensive work ups for mental status changes,” reports nurse Sandy Anderson. “But they insist that ‘all urine smells bad’ and it’s really more of a red herring.”

Another nurse reports that delay in diagnosing urinary tract infections (while patients are scheduled for brain MRIs, nuclear scans, and biopsies) can lead to worsening symptoms which accelerate and expand testing. “Some of my patients are transferred to the ICU during the altered mental status work up,” states nurse Anita Misra. “The doctors seem to be very excited about the additional technology available to them in the intensive care setting. Between the central line placement, arterial blood gasses, and vast array of IV fluid and medication options, urosepsis is really an excellent entré into a whole new level of care.”

“As far as medicine-induced mental status changes are concerned,” added Dr. Fishbinder, “We’ve never seen a single case in the past 10 years. Today’s patients are incredibly resilient and can tolerate mixes of opioids, anti-depressants, anti-histamines, and benzodiazepines without any difficulty. We know this because most patients have been prescribed these cocktails and have been taking them for years.”

Patient family members have expressed gratitude for Dr. Fishbinder’s diagnostic process, and report that they are very pleased that he is doing everything in his power to “get to the bottom” of why their loved one isn’t as sharp as they used to be.

“I thought my mom was acting strange ever since she started taking stronger pain medicine for her arthritis,” says Nelly Hurtong, the daughter of one of Dr. Fishbinder’s inpatients. “But now I see that there are deeper reasons for her ‘altered mental status’ thanks to the brain MRI that showed some mild generalized atrophy.”

Hospital administrators praise Dr. Fishbinder as one of their top physicians. “He will do whatever it takes to figure out the true cause of patients’ cognitive impairments.” Says CEO, Daniel Griffiths. “And not only is that good medicine, it is great for our Press Ganey scores and our bottom line.”

As for the nursing staff, Griffiths offered a less glowing review. “It’s unfortunate that our nurses seem preoccupied with urine testing and medication reconciliation. I think it might be time for us to mandate further training to help them appreciate more of the medical nuances inherent in quality patient care.”

Dr. Fishbinder is in the process of creating a half-day seminar on ‘altered mental status in the inpatient setting,’ offering CME credits to physicians who enroll. Richmond Medical Hospital intends to sponsor Dr. Fishbinder’s course, and franchise it to other hospitals in the state, and ultimately nationally.


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