Busy health care professionals aren’t often looking for one more thing to do. So, it is no surprise that social media falls off even the most well-intentioned to-do lists, or worse, never makes the list in the first place.
But, for those researchers and clinicians who carve out some time to engage, the benefits of social media outweigh any learning curves, concerns about privacy or time spent online.
“It’s been gratifying to have developed followers who are interested in what I have to say,” said Adrian M. Di Bisceglie, MD, FACP, FAASLD, and 2014 AASLD President. “In turn, I have found social media, especially Twitter, to be useful when looking for topics that are important to me. I hear about things that I might not otherwise hear about, like the recent Cochrane Collaboration publication on the effectiveness of HCV treatment. Or I hear about things sooner than I might have.”
Once seen by health care professionals as a ‘fad that won’t go away,’ social media has quickly become a valuable tool for many researchers and clinicians in health care.
Below are the top three ways every health care professional can use – and benefit from – social media.
Find and Share (Accurate) Health Information
As the digital world continues to grow, more people are turning to social media for news, advice, information and recommendations. It’s the new word of mouth and a source of breaking news.
At the most basic level, health care professionals can spend a few minutes each day perusing Twitter, LinkedIn, Sermo, Doximity and other social networks to read the news, find links to interesting journal articles and look for other information.
Just like you, your patients are using social media for the same reasons: news, information, and medical advice. In fact, Pew Research Center notes 47 percent of internet users are specifically looking for health information.
Misinformation exists, and patients are looking for reputable sources like yourself, your colleagues, AASLD, and your institution, for example. By simply sharing an article that you believe offers valuable information for patients, you are adding to the library of reputable information your patients will read.
Grow Your Network
Since its launch, social media has proven time and time again that it can effectively bring people and groups together for collaboration. This same benefit applies to health care professionals. With social media, you can connect with other health care professionals around the world to discuss research, treatment and issues affecting the hepatology community.
In the SparkReport study, 60 percent of physicians’ most popular activities on social are following what colleagues are sharing and discussing. By using a hashtag (#liverdisease, #liverhealth or #HCV, for example) or following influential leaders (@AASLDPresident, for example), you can broaden your reach and your personal networks. Ideas, research and treatments have the potential to spread like wildfire with the push of a button, as peers around the world can collaborate and build off the knowledge and data of others.
Become a Thought Leader
To become a thought leader, you must build a positive reputation within your industry or profession. Social media offers you the opportunity to do just that. By creating and actively using a few key social media profiles, you can increase your visibility and legitimacy with peers. By offering information beneficial to your followers, you can increase trust. By sharing research, insights and personal ideas, you can continuously build on your credibility and credentials in an innovative way.
There is a reason social media isn’t going away – that reason is it effectively allows people, including health care professionals, the opportunity to find and share valuable (and accurate) information, meet colleagues, grow a global network and become thought leaders.
“If you or your organization wants to be able to communicate effectively, you must be familiar with social media,” shared Dr. Di Bisceglie. “The best way to do that is to be an active participant. Pick a medium — Twitter, Facebook or Instagram — and get started!”
Over the next several months, AASLDNews will feature a series of articles designed to encourage AASLD members to become familiar with and engage in social media.
To learn more about this effort, visit AASLD’s “Social Media Essentials” at aasld.org/SocialMedia.