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Targeted Marketing Therapy

The prescription to help oncologists understand and use marketing, social media and more.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

3 Reasons Social Media Is a Must for Oncology Professionals (Part 1 of 3)

You’ve heard the buzz for several years now. Social media is the new black – you have to do it, it’s hot, it’s the new way to communicate. It'll transform the way you interact with colleagues and patients.

First it was MySpace, then Facebook. Don't forget Twitter and LinkedIn. Sprinkle in a little Sermo, add a touch of MedScape. Throw in a couple dozen CME websites and countless other healthcare sites and sources. Plus, now you can add in hundreds of smartphone apps.

So much to soak in.

If you already use social media, you know it's about filtering information and identifying the places where you find the best information. Yet if you’re not yet using social media or not tech-savvy, you may struggle with how or why you should figure it all out and still run a practice, see patients, analyze new treatments, have meetings, and do all the other things in your day.

Well, more than ever, it's important for you to start soaking it in, no matter what.

More and more physicians, nurses, practice managers, and administrators turn to social media every day to share ideas, discuss standards of care, and navigate practice challenges. Also add in patients, legislators, lawyers, CEOs, analysts, and other stakeholders in both your clinical practice and healthcare in general.

Why does it matter? All those groups interacting translates into conversation you need to be aware of and have a voice in. Issues evolve in real time now. National meetings are still important, yet they are no longer where everything important happens – more healthcare conversation and information-sharing happens every day in social media than in your entire national meeting.

If that's not reason enough, I have three good reasons why you should dive into social media starting now.

Here’s the first reason below (look for more in my next two posts):

    1.  You think it's all younger folks talking pop culture, not healthcare – that's far from true.  In fact, a recent Newsweek article highlights some pretty important statistics on the growth social networks have seen from the older age group. In a study from Pew Research, a remarkable 43% of 55-64 year-olds say they now use social networks (up from 9% in 2008); they're joined by a third of 65-74 year-olds and even 16% of those age 74 and above. Their most popular online activities: checking email, searching, and researching health information. In other words, the age groups that bear the majority of newly diagnosed malignancies and the bulk of cancer deaths are flocking to social networks and researching their treatments, hospitals, drugs – and yes, even you, their doctors.

There's even a patient social networking website, PatientsLikeMe, whose business model is built upon capturing and analyzing patient-provided data across various therapeutic areas.

How can you take advantage of this? There are several ways you can put information gleaned from social media to use.

  • Visit patient social networks to learn about their fears, new questions, and what comforts them – then proactively incorporate that knowledge into your daily interactions with patients.
  • Visit physician-rating sites to find out what patients say about you – if there’s any misinformation, it could affect your current patients or referral business.
  • Use the information you learn from those sites to create your own content and questions for your peers – ask other clinicians if they’ve heard the same things, dealt with the same issues, and resolved the same problems. Start discussions, meet people, learn more.

See how easy it is to leverage real information gained in just a few minutes each day?

It's easy to take it even a step further. Given what you now know via the research cited above on how many people research health information, you can proactively provide information to patients in social media. In other words, create your own social media outpost where patients can find and research healthcare information from you and your practice.

We'll discuss more in future posts, yet for example, create a Facebook fan page for your practice that posts a link to a cancer treatment-related question each week. Facebook allows patients to easily share this information with their families, friends and other stakeholders in their care. Put the full answer to the question on your website – that way everybody wins. You drive traffic to your site, patients get questions answered, and everyone can easily find additional information about your services and contact information.

We'll keep it simple for now. Simply plug into social media if you're not already. Listen and learn as the conversation takes place. When you see stimulating information, jump into the conversation. We'll talk more about leveraging what you learn in the future.