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Facebook + Physicians

By Jay Scrub

Your patients tweet from your waiting room. They describes their symptoms on Facebook. They ask about that 'funny rash' on Quora. They looked you up on LinkedIn.

Your patients are engaging in social media - are you?

Not just personally, but professionally - the expectations have changed. Medicine ultimately is a service industry, and like all service industries, the expectations of our customer, our patients, have changed. They are online and expect us to be as well. The question facing most practices is, to what degree? With practices stretched thin already managing work in the office, how can they devote resources to having an online presence?

These questions do not have simple answers, but like any medical problem you encounter, the first step is to gather more information. Think about your patient population - how active online are they in general? Clearly, there will be a big difference between a pediatrics practice and a geriatrics one. If your patient population is quite broad, another approach is to [drum roll] ask them! Many patients would be happy to let you know where they look for medical information and what ways they find convenient to communicate with your office.

As you have determine what your patients want, you also have to ask yourself how much are you willing to devote. In this day and age, being absent online is no longer an option. At a minimum, you should post basic information about your practice such as the address, telephone number, and office hours. I highly suggest that you have at least a static website that offers this information, and definitely make it accessible on sites that people use to find locations such as Google Maps, Bing Maps, and Yelp.

However, this post is about 'social' media, and static information is not very social. Look into creating a presence on Facebook and Twitter. You will have to judge whether you want these channels to be more one-way, with patients sending information to you, versus two-way with you or your office actively responding. You also have to judge how 'medical' you want your communications to be, keeping confidentiality and liability issues in mind. Avoid discussing specific medical issues in these forums. However, they function great for communicating general health tips, answering general health questions, and providing specific office information such as hour changes or new medication / treatment options available. Images showing when preventative care should be performed, or basic management algorithms, can be very helpful for patients. If you are particularly intrepid, ask a patient with a 'success' story if you can share their story on your social site. Draw your patients into the conversation with you.

Social media is an uncharted territory for most physicians so don't fear - explore! Learn what kinds of pages and accounts work best on these sites. Try different types of comments and posts. Including engaging content that your patients/fans would want to share with each other. In the social media world, something being 'viral' is a good thing! Help your users catch the bug! Chart your own course in the social media waters. Your patients will benefit and sing your praises - online and off.

About: Jay Scrub blogs at, a site for physican trainees of all levels discussing topics for success in medicine.

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Is Social Media Worth Investing Your Time And Energy?

With the spreading of social media into nearly every aspects of our lives, it is worth pausing and reflecting upon their value.

Are you tweeting yet? Posting to your Facebook wall? How about connecting through LinkedIn? How big is your cirlce in Google+? With the onslaught of social media, there is mounting pressure to join each network, manage conections and monetize these various social media outlets. It seems as if social media has become the dominant measuring stick for how well you are doing as a business and how well you are connecting with others.

And while I think social media is something to be embraced, I do not think every outlet is for every person. Nor do I believe that social media serves as any type of barometer in your life (professional and personal). In fact, I think the more you are selective about where you garnish your social media energy and attention, the better you can use social media to your advantage.

Before I get to the specifics of the most popular social media outlets, I want you to come away from this article with one main point: social media presence does NOT equate to success. There is a lot of advice coming at us telling us to join all of the social media networks, trying to convince us that the only way to grow our business and connect with people is by creating these various outposts/hubs to connect with others.

The truth remains, however, that most of the time you can spend a lot of time and energy creating and maintaining these various social media outlets without actually realizing much results. And so while we embrace social media in medicine and beyond, we need to be cognizant as to the actual role of each social media outlet is providing for us. I think a better perspective is "what can I do for social media" not "what can social media do for me".

Let's review the major social media outlets. For each I will give you my personal experience and opinion:

1. Facebook: with over 500 million users, Facebook has become THE largest social media outlet. I read an article today that said the biggest competitor to Apple is now Facebook. Same goes for who competes with Google. Most of us are familiar with Facebook on the personal side. But I wanted to focus on the professional side--Facebook Fan Pages. I currently have two separate FB Fan pages: one for the clinical side of life and one for my consulting side.

The clinical side (Organic Medicine Now) was easy to build and grow. I post my personal blog posts to this FB Fan Page, ask my fans questions and interact. Within a few months of starting my Organic Medicine Now FB fan page I had over 3000 fans. I was excited about this, indeed. I was making a small dent with all of my followers. Really? Sure, it is fun to see fan numbers grow and it is great to get feedback from fans about my blog posts and comments, but what purpose is this fan page really serving? To date, I don't have a good answer. I fully understand the concept of being able to broadcast information about my practice and my views, but I can tell you that I do not think I have gotten any new patients because of my FB wall or sold any of my supplements to any fans. So the obvious question is why continue to put my energy into something that is not leading to any results ? For me, I initially thought my FB wall would help grow my practice, but I now view this differently. Now, I understand that my FB wall is for me to share my opinions and to interact with my fans. As such, I do not spend a great deal of time on my FB wall.

My consulting FB fan page is just getting started, but I am more excited about this one. It is called New Rules of Medicine and it is a place where I am trying to host a discussion about ways we can improve modern medicine. I see this FB fan page not as a way to promote my business, but as a means to host this discussion. Last week after getting my settings squared away I wanted to notify my colleagues about my new FB fan page. I thought about blasting out a mass email asking people to LIKE the page and spread the word. But this did not feel right, so I sent out personal emails to about 50 or so colleagues. Did that work to grow and spread my New Rules of Medicine FB fan page? Not really. I had a few colleagues jump on and LIKE my page. I now have 10 fans. Woohoo! But I have to start somewhere, and now I understand that the role of my FB fan page is to host a discussion, not promote a product. So even though this fan base is going to take a lot longer to build, it will be more worthwhile. 

In summary, I think Facebook can be a valuable tool for your business. But please understand there is ever growing pressure for people to LIKE your page without that meaning much. Please be sure you are not putting too much energy into Facebook without seeing results. 

2. Twitter: Twitter is appealing to many people as you can gain a huge following quickly without having to invest much time and energy. The appeal to Twitter, I think, is like text messaging--you can communicate without having to write much at all. 

I tried Twitter and hated it. I started gaining fans and following people and companies I was interested in. But after several months, I realized there was no point in me providing updates to what I was doing or even interacting with other Twitter users. I saw zero return for the time and energy I invested.

I think Twitter has a role if you are hosting a conference and want to be able to quickly broadcast messages to attendees. But trying to promote your business or personal life via tweets seems counterproductive to me. I like being able to connect with people by writing and interacting, but Twitter really limits that ability. Again, I think Twitter can help you broadcast information, but pales in comparison to Facebook which offers the same capabilities and a whole lot more.

3. LinkedIn: deemed the social network for professionals, LinkedIn seems to be steadily growing in popularity. I have recently opened a LinkedIn account, but to date do not see how using LinkedIn is much different than Facebook. Certainly I can connect with other like-minded professionals and network accordingly, but to me, LinkedIn represents another time sucking arena created to help people network and not much else.

This goes to the heart of these social media outlets--are you using them to just network and promote yourself OR are you utilizing them to host, lead and moderate the issues and values you created your business around? To me, the latter is so much more important as I feel that everyone is trying to network somehow and I would much rather be the host at the dinner party than the attendee just trying to pass out business cards. LinkedIn feels like a place to go to pass out business cards and so it does not have much appeal to me at this point.

4. Google+: Google+ seems promising because of how much energy and resources Google is placing into this new network. I also like how you can create different circles of people to share information with based upon your own tags that you assign. So for someone like me who leads two separate discussions (clinical and consulting) where the two do not overlap, Google+ seems to offer promise. 

Google has brilliantly become the leader in search engines and their Ad Words is a phenomenal marketing program, so I expect similar results from Google+. Since they are the latest kid on the block, I am not sure if they will be able to dig into the influential arenas that Facebook and Twitter have developed. But Google+ feels like a place where one can share information and lead discussions and for those reasons, I am looking forward to learning more.

5. You Tube: I am including You Tube here as a social network because I think video represents the most potential for the future of social media connecting. You Tube is now enormous and because we are all enamored with video, I think being a part of You Tube is a must for businesses looking to network, promote and lead discussions. 

So far, most of us use You Tube as a place to share information. We create videos of ourselves talking about our services and products. Video is a great medium to relay information because we can be much more creative with video (sounds, music, movement, etc.) compared to written text. 

But I don't think we have even begun using video like we will be in five years from now. If I have any advice for you, it is to learn about video production and how to make that work for your business. Creating a You Tube Channel is easy to do and only takes a few moments. 

I have not created many videos for my You Tube channel in a while as I have enjoyed taking a break and writing, but I plan on getting back to video creation and editing very soon. In fact, I think that video-casting is going to be something I do more than writing in the near future. Video is that powerful a tool and I encourage you to explore this medium.

With all of the above being said, I think the key questions are this: what suits your personality? what suits the goals of your business, your personal life? 

You have to be able to answer those questions before you can go using social media outlets. Because if you don't, these different social media outlets can take up a lot of your time. To me, I break it down as follows:

  • Blogging: my favorite way to share my thoughts, comments and opinions
  • Facebook: my favorite way to broadcast information and host discussions
  • Twitter: not suited to my personality or goals and therefore I do not participate
  • LinkedIn: seems to be like a big arena to pass around business cards, but not much else
  • Google+: seems to be moving social media in a good direction; too early to tell if I will be able to utilize
  • You Tube: represents video distribution and the future of social media

What social media outlet do you like to use? Why? We would all love to hear your experiences!


Tips For A Smooth Medical Clinic Contest On Facebook

Facebook is becoming a necessary marketing arm for successful medical clinics.

By Cary M Silverman, MD, MBA

There are several reasons a medical practice should consider setting up a Facebook fan page:

  • It's free.
  • It gives you another way to communicate with potential patients through updates that will appear on their news feeds.
  • You can promote events and services in your office.
  • You can boost your SEO.
  • You can promote brand awareness for your practice.
  • Facebook can act as a funnel to your main practice web site.
  • You can build a community for your patients.

Once you decide to set up a fan page for your practice, the next task is to build a fan base. A Facebook contest is an excellent way to achieve this goal. These contests offer several benefits:

  • A highly cost effective way to build a database.
  • 50% of online users enter a contest once a month.
  • Contests can be highly targeted.
  • Creates positive brand awareness for your practice.
  • Patients can further spread word about the contest to all their friends.

Make Your Idea Social “Well my contest is on Facebook – so it’s social, right?” Wrong. Your Facebook fans are more excited to participate in a contest where they can help determine the outcome, than one where you pick the winner. Furthermore, when you require voting or involvement of some sort, that means your fans must find friends to join in their quest to win (hence “social word of mouth marketing”).

Keep it Simple

Do you fill out every field of surveys you get trapped into taking? Didn’t think so. Contests are the perfect way to gather important information about your fans (remember to tell them how you intend to use it), but only ask for the essentials so that you don’t miss out on any entrants. Remember that users will give you more information if you make it enjoyable, functional, and easy.

Real Original

This one should be a given, but you’d be surprised how many times organizations run extremely similar campaigns back-to-back. Fans don’t want to enter the same contest or participate in the same campaign over and over again on Facebook, and if you don’t catch their attention, they sure won’t tell their friends about it. The greatest Facebook contests are the most creative and memorable ones (just don’t over-do it and forget to keep it simple).

Know the Rules

If Facebook catches you doing something illegal they will delete your page and ban your practice from using the platform. So remember first and foremost that you must run your contest on a third-party application. We use Shortstack, which is fully customizable and affordable. Others include: Offerpop, Wildfire, and many more. You cannot require Facebook users to submit any content or take any action on Facebook itself (i.e. posting a photo to your page’s wall, liking, commenting, or re-posting content, etc.). You cannot announce a winner on Facebook which is actually a good way to drive people to your blog or website. Here are the current Facebook Promotions Rules and Guidelines so that you can remain compliant (they are always changing, so be watching).

It Starts In-Office

What better access do you have to potential Facebook fans and contest entrants than your own office? In a past contest we ran on EyeCare 20/20's Facebook page called “The Eyeball Challenge”, we started by attracting the patients in the clinic. We filled a large glass jar with candy eyeballs, posted a photograph of it on our Facebook contest tab, and directed fans to guess how many eyes were in it in a commenting section on the tab. The winning guess would receive a pair of sunglasses. This way people who knew us both offline and online could participate.

We had in-store signage at the front desk with a call to action and QR code taking patients right to the Facebook page to enter. We trained the entire staff to know what the contest involved, rules, and prizes so that they could urge patients to submit their guesses. We also designed takeaway collateral pieces so that those without smartphones could be reminded to enter when they got home.

This was an exciting way for us to inform our patients that we were on Facebook, and for some was their very first introduction to the social network. [As a side note: remember to speak in laymen’s terms, and be prepared to assist novice Facebook users.]

Come With All Guns A’ Blazing

Just as it helps us to have all parts of our bodies to perform at our highest level, our social media presence and success depends on the coordination of many factors. Plan your contest launch with a timeline marked with a dedicated email blast to your current database (don’t hide this in a regular email, give it its own special delivery date, if you are able to, without inundating your recipients). Be sure to include Twitter updates (reaching out to influencers in your niche, or local organization/people), digital and social media press releases, maybe an image or interchangeable banner linked to the tab, and utilization of any other platforms or people that you have at your disposal.

The Buddy System

Join forces with another party (maybe a prize sponsor). Bring traffic from their website, stores, brand name, etc. to increase traffic to your contest tab. Maybe a few months later you can offer to sponsor a contest for them. You can even offer your contest as an on-site giveaway at a major community event where people must enter on Facebook, and you announce the winner at the end of the event. Get creative. Just remember that the buddy system expands your network exponentially. It’s Okay to Spend a Little $

Facebook ads are a very effective way to gain not only entrants, but fans in general. When we initiated an advertising campaign for EyeCare 20/20, we increased our fans by more than 60%. And our contest entries quadrupled! Ads can be tricky, so play around with titles, ad copy, images, landing pages, and your bids until you get the right combination. These ads are great for local practices and organizations, so set a little money (and time to monitor) aside to find out what will work best for you! Converting New Fans to Patients

Some people become so consumed with getting new fans in running their contests that they forget to focus on bringing in potential leads. Focus on spreading the word with your current patients, local places where your target market can be found, and use ads that involve ad copy that will catch the eyes of prospective patients. Although numbers are important for establishing credibility and providing an audience for your later initiatives, remember to make each fan count.

Effects of a Campaign

Although your campaign may not make the Top Ten Promotions of All Time list… remember to take with you what you learned. Yes, you are going to get those few fans who are “Contest-Hoppers”, liking you, winning or losing, and then unsubscribing. Prepare to lose a few fans, but not to worry, the majority will remain with you. Remember to thank all of your participants, maybe even post a few examples from your entries (if you have permission in your rules), and continue to speak in your fun voice, building anticipation for your next campaign as soon as your current one ends to keep fans engaged.

Bonus Point: When overwhelmed, Get some Help

Sounds like a lot of work? Trust me – it’s worth it! For years, we did all our social marketing at EyeCare 20/20 in house. When we saw how much time and energy we were expending we decided to seek the aid of a professional online marketing team. We still spend a lot of time with our social marketing, but having this professional support has helped you to attain social media perfection. There are many excellent ones out there.

About: Cary M Silverman, MD, MBA is Medical Director of EyeCare 20/20 in East Hanover, NJ. He specializes in LASIK and refractive cataract surgery. You can read his blog or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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How To Manage - Or Save - Your Online Reputation

Controling your professional reputation as a physician.

Dr. Julie Silver recently posted about my colleague, Rusty Shelton’s comment, “Your reputation is what Google says it is.”  She asked me to provide some guidelines for managing your online reputation. The first thing you need to do is research: What is that reputation now? Rusty calls that part of your “Online Brand Audit.”

What comes up on the first page when you Google Your Name or Business? You want it to be:

1. Positive

2. An accurate representation of your brand, including the image and attributes you want people to associate with you and your business.

3. Likely to resonate with your target audience(s)

Rusty suggests you put yourself in the shoes—or mind—of a New York Times reporter or TV talk show producer. I might add a conference organizer. When they’re looking for a trusted source or a speaker and find you on Google, what will they see first? How about if they Google your name?

  • Will they see videos?
  • How do these represent you?

If the first video they see if a six year old interview when you were first getting your feet wet, you might want to find a way to get other videos to show up sooner than this one.

So, how do you manage your reputation online and shift what people see?

1. Respond graciously to a poor review, indicating that you strive for patient/customer satisfaction, you’re so sorry they had a bad experience and you’d like to make it up to them by x. Of course, if there are any legal implications, check with your attorney first.

2. Ask happy patients, clients and customers to write positive reviews. They can review your business or practice at sites like RateMDs, Yelp and Yahoo! Local, Healthgrades, Angie’s List and Vitals. Never have anyone write a “fake” review. There are legal implications in addition to the moral one.

3. Blog: The more you blog, the more you create content on your website, so that your own website and blog posts tend to come up on the first page.

4. Add videos on your blog and website and use appropriate keywords to help these videos place in search engines.

5. Blog for high profile sites: If you blog for Psychology Today, WebMD or the Huffington Post, you’re likely to have those posts come up high in search engine results—a nice credibility bump for you and it gives you control of what people see.

6. Be sure to claim your listings on search sites such as Google Local, Yahoo local, etc.

7. Note any Facebook photos of you posted by friends and relatives. You should be able to at least “untag” yourself in photos. You may also want to request them to be taken down.

8. Put your best videos on YouTube and tag them with keywords. YouTube videos tend to rank high.

9. If you find something that doesn’t represent your brand or image, see if the person is willing to take it down, replace it or fix it. It may not be as heinous as a bad review, but it could be something that no longer represents you.

Searching online for the phone number of a very reputable and conscientious literary agent I know, I was shocked to see her name come up next to some un-complimentary remarks in a Google listing of a website that rates agents and editors and “outs” the bad guys.

When I clicked on the actual page, it looked fine—so it just “appeared” she had a bad reputation because of the way the website’s listing came up (some issue with title tags, I assume). I immediately e-mailed her to let her know about the issue. She did know and was working with the website owner to fix that misleading information.

So, if you see something bad, don’t panic. Even if you can’t get it taken down, you can work on these other strategies to drive it to a lower ranked page. Take control of your online reputation today.

Here are some additional resources on the subject:

New York Times Article   Mashable Post

Here's a free webinar for physicians on protecting your reputation


Physicians & The Accidental Billionaires

Accidental Billionaires?

Last week with my time on the island I had the opportunity to catch up on some reading.

Nothing too earth-shattering or intellectual, but I did make it through a couple of good books.

One book I had considered reading for a while now actually turned out to be rather good.  The book was The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook by Ben Mezrich.  

For those of you who have been living in a cave the past few years, The Accidental Billionaires is a sort of fictionalized account of the rise of Facebook, and was recently turned into a popular movie called The Social Network.

I was hesitant to read the book simply because it has been criticized as too fictional.  Mark Zuckerberg-- the person most associated with the founding of Facebook and the current CEO of the company-- did not make himself available for interviews with the author.  Additionally, many of the individuals used as primary sources for the text have openly stated their animosity towards Zuckerberg and/or the company, Facebook.  These foes include Edaurdo Saverin-- a college friend of Zuckerberg and co-founder of Facebook-- and the Winklevoss twins, Cameron and Tyler, who are still in ongoing litigation with the company.

Th book reads like fiction-- Mezrich openly admits he had to use literary technique to bridge gaps in the historical accounts-- but it ends up being an interesting and quick read.  Suffice it to say that if you like the movie, you'll find the book interesting.

Personally, I enjoyed the read simply because while it is obviously one-sided, it does give you one person's (ie- Saverin's) account of the founding of the company and the whirlwind development of Facebook from dorm room daydream to corporate force.  For those who have been involved with any sort of start-up company, the themes of the book ring true:  the initial excitement, the overwhelming work, the near misses and mistakes, the infighting and jealousy, and the eventual victory.

I also enjoyed the characters of the book, many of whom are well-known entities in the world of Silicon Valley.  The anecdotes about "bad boy" Sean Parker, the brilliance of Peter Thiel, the competitive drive of the Winklevoss twins, and the descriptions of life as an undergrad at Harvard were all very intriguing.  

Anyway, if you have any interest in entrepreneurship, venture capital, technology, or start-up companies, then I believe you will find The Accidental Billionaires a fun read.  I enjoyed it and while some parts are somewhat sinister, and others downright bizarre, I think this fictionalized account of one person's view of the Facebook founding is entertaining and worth the short time investment necessary to breeze through its pages.


Are Medical Societies Irrelevant For Today's Physicians?

Ask yourself this question: "Why am I in my medical society?"

A few years ago I took the plunge and stopped hoping to become an entrepreneur and actually stepped out and gave it a whirl.  It was a crazy time. 

I learned very quickly that starting a business always takes a lot more time and money than you originally envision, and in short order I was scrounging for capital to fuel my dream.

It was during this time that I made a decision to let my medical society memberships lapse.  I had never considered it before, really, and as far as I was concerned, being a part of medical societies was simply part of being a physician-- I paid my dues and they supplied my, er, membership.

When I was in academics, my department paid my society dues as part of my contract.  I never thought about the cost since I didn't view the funds as coming from me (there seems to be a moral here somewhere...), but when I entered the world of community, or non-academic, medicine, suddenly the costs associated with these memberships became very real.

Five hundred dollars for this membership.  Three hundred a year for that one. It quickly added up, but I got a special tuition discount if I attended the annual meeting and I even got an occasional journal delivered to my mailbox with my name stamped on the front.  It all seemed very official and made me sort of feel like part of a special group, so I dutifully paid the dues and congratulated myself on my support of the furthering of the intellectual aims of XX society.  

However, as anyone who's ever been in business can tell you, at some point tough decisions have to be made, and for me, the relinquishing of my membership in these societies was one of those tough ones.  I believed in these organizations.  I liked being associated with them.  I enjoyed seeing my name stamped on the front of the journals and I even flipped through an article or two when I could.  Walking away from something that made me feel so "involved" made me feel isolated, vulnerable.  If being a member of these organizations made me feel included, leaving them made me feel...alone.

That was almost three years ago.

Since then, the various ventures with which I'm involved have finally started to right themselves and for the first time in quite a while I have begun to have the ability to get involved once again in medical societies.  In the past few months I've begun to ponder joining this society or that one, trying to figure out which one would be a better fit and from whose membership I would learn the most skills-- and meet the most talented leaders.

After marching down this path for a little bit, I finally stopped and asked myself a very simple question: why?

Why was I considering membership in a medical society?

It's true that when you begin a company your mind becomes much more keenly aware of the theoretical "return on investment" (ROI) than before.  I began asking myself the typical ROI questions I had asked myself at the beginning of any of my entrepreneurial ventures:  What would I gain from the investment of time and money in this organization?  Would my funds be better directed elsewhere?  Could I gain the same benefits without investing the relatively high annual dues?  How would I verify that my funds would be used appropriately and at what point would I be able to have an impact in the overall mission of this organization?

My honest assessment after a sit down talk with myself and a review of the available information before me was the following: For the most part, medical societies do not offer a significant enough ROI to warrant the investment required to participate.

I know this sounds like heresy for some, but let's review the facts...

From what I can tell, the reasons given for a physician to be a member of any medical society today basically revolve around three points.  

First, societies are said to offer camaraderie and networking opportunities for their members.  Second, societies supposedly help promote medical education and proper practice standards among their participants.  Third, medical societies, through the old "strength in numbers" adage, are in theory better able to represent their members politically and promote and pass legislation that furthers good medical practice.

Let's review these arguments in broad daylight and see if they hold water.

A generation ago, being a member of a medical society was really the only way a physician could connect with other physicians outside their basic social circle.  You joined the medical society of X in order to associate with its members, get invited to its galas, hear the latest research, and hopefully move up the ladder of influence of said organization as you progressed in notoriety and seniority.  This model was the same model used in the business world with the Elks Club, Rotary International, and the corporate culture at large.  Young, idealistic individuals, regardless of their skill set or motivation, waited in line patiently for their name to be called and an opportunity given to begin climbing the rungs of leadership within an organization, whether this organization was the Elks, IBM, or the X Medical Association.  One didn't even consider leaving if you had any career ambitions or longing for social connectedness.  The arrangement was what it was, and you just had to adjust.  

This model worked for quite a while since it was easy for senior members to control the benefits of membership, and parcel these benefits out only to those junior members who walked the line. 

In the corporate world, the personal computer revolution and especially the internet explosion, completely imploded this hierarchal regime.  No longer could senior corporate members exclusively hold the benefits of membership.  Enterprising upstarts could easily, from the comfort of home, begin a company on the web and not only leapfrog their old positions, in some cases they leapfrogged their entire industries.  The recent movie The Social Network , while criticized for not being 100% accurate, at least tells the gist of the story-- that a couple of Harvard undergrads turned the world on its ear from their dorm room.  

The internet has become the great world flattener, and while Richard Florida is correct that innovation still occurs in geographic regions, the ability to take your idea to the world in an instant is a tremendous power that prior generations did not have.  Furthermore, with the internet and more specifically, the social networking ability on the internet, junior members in every organization can instantly, and freely, associate themselves with whomever they choose all around the world.  Gone are the days when being on the outs with your local or even national medical society is a professional death sentence.  Individuals now have the ability to join any number of interesting networking groups, or even start their own.

Along this same line of thinking, the days when medical societies controlled medical education are long gone.  With the click of a keyboard, I can find medical education on almost any topic and I can access it at any time. I don't have to wait for my professional journal to arrive, and anything cutting edge will be posted on the web long before it hits my mailbox anyway. 

When I pay my fees to earn CME credits, I now have the opportunity to choose what topics I hear, and whom I hear teach them.  No more sitting in a conference lecture listening to the droning of Dr. Oldenkrinkle simply because he's the chair of the education committee. I can learn from the best teachers at any time in the comfort of my home and earn my CME credits on my own terms.

So with regards to the power of networking and the educational opportunities available, I would have to say that there are as many, or more, opportunities outside of medical societies today as there are within.  And when you consider that most of the membership societies available to the modern physician are free, why would you pay $300-$500 to be a member of a medical society for the networking or educational reasons?  It just doesn't make sense.

The last reason-- pooling our strength to become a stronger political lobbying force for X issues or specialty-- is the one most often cited in the recent past by modern physicians as a reason to be involved in a medical society.  Matter of fact, this one reason was a big one for me.  I mean, any objective person can see that physicians need a strong lobbying voice in Washington, if for no other reason than simply to attempt to counterbalance the influences of the trial lawyers and their ilk.  

However, I describe this as being cited in the "recent past" because I haven't heard it from any physician recently.

No, if there was one glorious revelation that came into full view during the healthcare debate in this country, it was the cowardice of the self-serving leadership at the helms of most medical societies in this country.

I don't think any physician will be fooled in the future with the "give us your money and we'll stand up for you" line that motivated us in the past.  What the healthcare debate clearly revealed was that when medical societies say they work for their constituents, they do truly mean this.  It's just that their constituents aren't the dues-paying members that constitute their ranks-- they're the entrenched bureaucrats in their leadership.

Physicians watched in horror as medical society after medical society lined up and endorsed Obamacare, and then spoke to America as if their members were in agreement.  The American Medical Association was the worst offender, selling its soul to keep intact its lucrative, exclusive right to the CPT billing codes that fund its bureaucracy.  It was appalling in its transparency, and no physician who saw it will ever forget it.

So what to do as a modern physician?

The point here isn't to argue that no medical society is worth joining.  Many societies do good work in certain areas and there are physicians who derive a great deal of pleasure from membership in a society or two of interest.

My point in this post is that being a member of a medical society is simply not the knee-jerk necessity it was a few years ago, and there's no credible reason to join any society unless you really feel that their mission meshes with yours and you want to be involved.

More importantly, I believe that medical societies need to begin asking themselves what real value they give their members.  Today's young physician will not be coerced in the traditional way into membership, and if value isn't apparent, many will simply walk away.

So will I eventually join a medical society?  

I don't know.


I'll need to discuss it with my friends on Facebook and get back to you.


AMA Policy: Medical Professionalism & Social Media

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogging & Physicians

A new policy on professionalism in the use of social media was adopted at the November 8th 2010 meeting of the American Medical Association. These basic guidelines represent one of the first steps by a major American physician organization to offer guidance in the appropriate use of social/new media.

It's pretty generic and basic stuff but it does recognize that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs and other social networks are destined to become intimately intertwined with medicine.

The Internet has created the ability for medical students and physicians to communicate and share information quickly and to reach millions of people easily.  Participating in social networking and other similar Internet opportunities can support physicians’ personal expression, enable individual physicians to have a professional presence online, foster collegiality and camaraderie within the profession, provide opportunity to widely disseminate public health messages and other health communication.  Social networks, blogs, and other forms of communication online also create new challenges to the patient-physician relationship.  Physicians should weigh a number of considerations when maintaining a presence online:

(a)  Physicians should be cognizant of standards of patient privacy and confidentiality that must be maintained in all environments, including online, and must refrain from posting identifiable patient information online.

(b)  When using the Internet for social networking, physicians should use privacy settings to safeguard personal information and content to the extent possible, but should realize that privacy settings are not absolute and that once on the Internet, content is likely there permanently.  Thus, physicians should routinely monitor their own Internet presence to ensure that the personal and professional information on their own sites and, to the extent possible, content posted about them by others, is accurate and appropriate.

(c)  If they interact with patients on the Internet, physicians must maintain appropriate boundaries of the patient-physician relationship in accordance with professional ethical guidelines just, as they would in any other context.

(d)  To maintain appropriate professional boundaries physicians should consider separating personal and professional content online.

(e)  When physicians see content posted by colleagues that appears unprofessional they have a responsibility to bring that content to the attention of the individual, so that he or she can remove it and/or take other appropriate actions.  If the behavior significantly violates professional norms and the individual does not take appropriate action to resolve the situation, the physician should report the matter to appropriate authorities.

(f)  Physicians must recognize that actions online and content posted may negatively affect their reputations among patients and colleagues, may have consequences for their medical careers (particularly for physicians-in-training and medical students), and can undermine public trust in the medical profession.

Of course, Freelance MD is all over social media. Here's just a few of the places that you can 'like' or join other physicians who want intellilgent information.

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