Ethics Forum Speaker KevinMD: Social Media Gives Doctors a Voice

We recently caught up with Dr. Kevin Pho, MD, a Boston University-trained internist now practicing in Nashua, NH.  His website, KevinMD.com, is one of the Internet’s top sites for physician commentary and news.

Dr. Pho is a featured speaker at the Massachusetts Medical Society’s Ethics Forum, “Social Media and Medicine: the Impact on Your Patients, Your Practice, and You,” on Friday, Dec. 2, 2011, from 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

MMS:  Why should physicians get involved with social media?

Dr. Pho: We know that social media is important to patients. A Pew study says that 8 out of 10 of Internet users are online looking for medical information, but only 25 percent of them check the source of what they find. There is lots of bad information out there. I’ll be making the case for doctors to be online, guiding patients to good information.

Another reason is that social media is gives doctors a voice in national debates they didn’t have 5 or 10 years ago.  With these (social media) platforms, we can introduce topics we think are important to a wide audience.

MMS: Many doctors say they just don’t feel comfortable with social media sharing sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Dr. Pho: Doctors need an online presence and digital footprint. Patients will be looking for them online, and gone are the days where they will be using the phone book. I tell people, you really need to control your own social media presence.

MMS: Some physicians tell us that they went online and discovered that their patients were blogging about them, and even rating their performance!

Dr. Pho: Doctors ask me all the time about how they can remove a negative review on a website.  The good news is that you can really control what shows up first in a Google search of you by establishing your own Facebook and LinkedIn profiles.

Those self-generated things rank higher in the search engines, and they are all under your control.  So you may not be able to get a negative review pulled down, but you can bury it under other links that you control.

MMS:  But if physicians get on Facebook, won’t patients try to friend them?

Dr. Pho:  Right, and the answer to the question, “Should doctors friend patients?” is a clear no. I am an advocate for ”dual citizenship,” where physicians have a personal Facebook page with all profile settings closed to the public, and a separate page open to the public that is your professional face on Facebook.

MMS:  You have more than 42,000 followers on Twitter, but many physicians don’t seek that kind of audience.  Should the average physician really bother with Twitter?

Dr. Pho: Twitter is often misunderstood. I really use it more as a listening and learning tool. You don’t have to go on there and talk all the time, or even at all.  It’s a great place to follow thought leaders in all sorts of areas. I advise other doctors to tiptoe in and look around and see what they are comfortable with.

MMS:  KevinMD has become one of the most popular physician sites on the internet. How do you have any time to see patients?

Dr.  Pho:  Ha! I do all of my social media from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. All of my tweet times are pre-set, so it looks like I am live all the time but I’m not. I see my patients from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

MMS:  What do you think will be the next big thing in terms of social media and medicine?

Dr. Pho: When I started KevinMD in 2004, I didn’t know where it was leading and it is still very much evolving.  I try to keep up with the trends and how other industries are using social media. Most of the time, the (the medical world) is two to three years behind those trends.

–       Erica Noonan