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Many Physicians and many healthcare administrative professionals still believe that social media has no place in a medical practice. Many of them are right. If your practice has not implemented social media or has done nothing more than erect a web site from 1997 that acted as an online business card that nobody found, social media certainly has no place in your practice. What prompted today’s post was a statement I came across on the web site of a company that markets healthcare web sites. They state that “If  you don’t have a website, social platforms will not be necessary nor worthwhile.  If you do have a website, these sites can help you and is simple to employ.” I’m a bit of a grammar nut so this statement annoys me on several levels. Let’s break it down a bit.

If you don’t have a web site, the correct statement would be that social platforms may have less effectiveness than if you do have a web site. Five or ten years ago, web sites were shiny and new to medical practices. Facebook was being born and Twitter was becoming a placenta. To be clear, I believe a proper web site is essential for a medical practice or any business that wants to portray a professional image. This is exactly why I’m in the process of designing a new site. It was not up to par and it is important to always demonstrate integrity by admitting ones own faults first. 

Today, Facebook offers many resources and tools to the medical community. You can communicate with patients (keeping HIPPA in mind), enable sign-up to your newsletter, capture leads, enable other physicians to refer patients, link to relevant information that is timely, and engage patients or other physicians where they are. The truth is that you probably haven’t ever had a patient (that you don’t fear) who checks your web site every single day. They do read Facebook every day. In the next few weeks, I will be adding to this when I build a web site that runs within a Facebook page giving you the majority of functionality that you have on your regular web site but your patient (or physician) will never have to leave Facebook! 

What about Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn, and Pinterest? These platforms have unique purposes and can be used in many ways. Twitter offers an opportunity to tweet your latest research, news about your practice, community events, and more. Other physicians on Twitter may search for specific hash-tags that relate to your specialty and offer them another avenue to find you. Patients may search to see that you offer valuable content that adds to your credibility and then may end up sharing what they’ve learned with others which further positions you as a thought leader in your field. LinkedIn is great if you want to recruit talent to your practice. Google+ local has now replaced Google Places so it would be useful to have a presence there for search rank. Cosmetic Physicians could use Pinterest to post before and after photos. An orthopedic surgeon may post interesting pictures of fractures and their repairs. The possibilities are endless and could easily take over the little time you have. How to address that will have to be covered separately. 

Lastly, lets cover the issue of whether or not social platforms are simple to employ. Can anybody create a Facebook page, Twitter account, and utilize other social sites. Absolutely! If they weren’t easy to get on and to gain some value from, they wouldn’t have demonstrated such tremendous success. Is it easy to engage your target audience, use analytics to track results, or to consistently provide useful content that builds your audience, your referrals, and your relationships in the time you actually have? Typically that answer is no. 

Medical practices will survive without social media (most of them), but those who use it effectively will prosper. I’m not in the habit of merely surviving. Are you?

"Medical Marketing", "Social Media for Doctors", "Social Media for Physicians", Doctor, Physician, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, YouTube

Michael Allen is passionate about guiding physicians through the social media landscape. Follow  Captive Medical Solutions on Facebook  and on Twitter @CaptiveMedical

It’s okay to update your style every 3-10 years. Why? I love this shirt! Too bad. We’ve all seen at least a clip of one of those makeover shows where someone loses 100 lbs and gets new teeth and a new wardrobe. Those clothes aren’t provided just because the fat clothes would look ridiculous and even foolish.

Attire and updated style provides a new look that affirms that you’re no longer clutching the glory days of years gone by. Your life is exciting and full of youth and energy that is within your grasp at any age. This doesn’t imply that a female physician needs to adopt a mini-skirt like the high school girls are wearing but you can certainly ditch the shoulder pads, cant you?

For Physicians, an updated style may also help you connect better with your patients. People we relate to are people we talk to. People we talk to are people we find common ground with and that leads to trusting dialogue, respect, and confidence in each other. You do want patients to trust you, right? First understand that it may be hard for a 30 something patient to relate to a doctor with a giant collar and bell-bottom jeans. Similarly, an elderly woman may not relate to a young doctor with a visible snake tattoo on his arm. It’s also important to realize that what goes in New York may not relate to citizens of Arizona. I’ll never forget a tale I heard once of a drug rep who brought a sales trainer from NY to visit a physician in Arizona. The trainer insisted that the rep where his suit jacket in to the office to present a professional appearance. As soon as they entered the office, the doctor kicked them out because they looked like fools and he would engage in no clinical discussion with men that would wear a suit jacket when it was 105 degrees outside!

How do you know if it is time to update your style? Do you really need to? For those questions, there are simple solutions. First, ask someone you trust that will be blunt enough to tell you the truth. Second, get multiple perspectives like a non-commissioned salesperson at a store, someone of the opposite sex, someone that is different from you that you like but may not engage with much. A last (though maybe it should be first) option is to hire a professional. There are style coaches in every city and you can even find one online. Their emergence and volume seems to have swelled in the economic downturn as everyone fights for any competitive advantage in the job market.

So if this strikes a chord with you, I hope it has helped you to stop, reflect, maybe even think outside the box and make a change for the positive. Do you know someone that needs to consider a style update? Please share, tweet, and post this. We’ve even added easy social sharing buttons below like we do for our customers when we update their online image!

Smart, sophisiticated, intelligent, clinically proficient, and highly respected. These were once terms that described the American pharmaceutical sales representative. Over many years, these reps have lost credibility through marketing practices that included paying prescribers exhorbitant amounts of money to speak or author studies, trials, and testimonials that painted the pharmaceutical company and it’s products in a favorable light. Sharply, we have seen a consumer, government, physician, and even industry crackdown that has halted these practices. So strict are current guidelines with HIPPA, Sunshine Act, and Pharma Code that reps may not even offer a pen with a legitimate dosing reminder attached.

Fear of impropriety has resulted in two camps. In one, there is a notion that we must create a nanny state in which our physicians are protected from the potential that they will prescribe based on having received a shiny pen or enjoyed a sandwich while a rep provided details on a medication’s pharmacokinetic profile. This camp eludes to the idea that physician’s, in spite of having passed med school, are incapable of the professionalism that enables them to filter industry provided information so that they may prescribe based on scientific evidence and appropriate clinical experience. In the other camp, there is a backlash in which physician’s resent increasing oversight and feel the threat to their autonomy as clinical professionals. This second camp is not unfounded. Lower Medicare reimbursements, HMO’s dictating which medications receive reimbursement, ACO’s, and now administrators telling them which drug reps they may or may not engage with and all of their interactions being bound by increasing scrutiny and threat of intervention by authorites or lawyers. Certainly a lot for a medical doctor to consider, isn’t there?

Lets examine the portion regarding the physician to drug rep interaction. We previously covered the high regard to which the pharmaceutical industry was once held. It was thought of as a vital source of new information and innovation to support the practice of medicine. The fault of the rep’s image decline does not fall solely on the reps, the administrators, or the physicians. For years, pharmaceutical companies pumped out scores of reps armed with the same literature, same samples, and the same message. Reps were told to extend their reach and frequency and it was thought that this high activity would increase sales. It did, until it didn’t.

Quickly, office staff as well as the physician customers became annoyed by constant interference by reps who were no longer engaging, but rather were regurgitating the same message as the rep that was by earlier in the day. Even the reps began to complain because they knew they were no longer bringing value to aid their target list in procuring the most effective medication for the patient population since their pod (a group of reps working on the same targets) all did the same thing over and over. The result has been reduced access as clinic’s limited the number of drug rep visits or even eliminated them altogether.

Industry has now recoiled with massive layoffs of the once prominent faces of their companies. Long standing relationships that reps had with physicians have been demolished in favor of contract or temp reps who can be easily reassigned. Even amongst those employed directly, there is recurring reorganization of sales teams such that a rep cannot count on being in any given territory calling on particular physicians for long. Those with tenured pharma sales backgrounds now find themselves in a sea of changing tide. Today’s call on a doctor may involve nothing more than a sample drop and a signature capture.

The dynamic of a modern sales call is not simply because physicians do not want to engage and learn about the products, some do. However, the rep is in the middle of two coins. On one hand, offices have restricted access with the belief that “the rep can’t provide value so they don’t need to see our providers”. On the other hand, reps are so limited in their messaging that they are prohibited from discussing or alluding to any off-label use even if that is the type of use that is most common with the medication and the company has studies to support the off-label use. As an ex-rep, it always irked me that a product could be known to have virtually no side-effects and even be more effective than current therapies yet I was not permitted to provide the data we had because “if the doctors already prescribe then it is not cost effective to do the studies required to get the indication”.

Now we have the Sunshine Act to deal with. One rep reported that she could not discuss insurance coverage for her products and efficacy on the same call because that is how her company was interpreting the new rules. Even the staple of rep access, lunches, are now feared because they could be seen as improper gifting in order to increase prscribing of a given medication. Of course, lunches increase prescribing! Lunches provide opportunity for reps to discuss treatment algorithms and present clinical evidence that supports using a given medication with a specific patient population. This causes the doctors to identify patients that may be better served by varying their treatment protocols. Personally, I like the idea of someone shaking (not literally) my doctor on occasion to check in and see if they’re up to speed on the latest treatments, don’t you?

The world we are left with is this. Pharmaceutical reps are not being given the complete information about their products so that their organizations can control the messaging. Physicians are unable to get direct questions answered on the spot unless the answer can be read from the package insert which they can do for themselves. Instead, doctors must be directed to a clinical science liaison that relays the clinical info at a later date. Value from reps has diminished such that many reps are now apothetic about their roles and find it satisfactory to drop samples with no discussion at all. Companies are even employing customer service sample droppers who are not trained to discuss medical info and work at half the cost. While rep opportunities still exist, the career path is no longer clear. Those with highly decorated success are being pushed out in favor of newbie reps with lower pay requirements and no recollection of the genuine clinical discussions of times past. The very tenured reps are hanging on in fear of layoffs with mouths closed and the hope of riding this out until retirement. Actually, I cross my fingers for them too. Highest paid tends to be the first to go when the companies hire an outside company to make “unbiased” layoff decisions.

In this author’s opinion, doctors are generally highly competent with a high degree of ability to discern viable information to guide their decisions. Each year, physicians are working harder and longer hours to prevent income decline. They are more demanded upon than ever and many do not have the time or energy to seek out every bit of relevant data regarding treatment options. The professional pharmaceutical sales rep (not the sample droppers) was and can still be a valuable filter that highlights the most important relevant data so that the physician does not need to dig. They also provide fast updates on discount programs, patient assistance programs, processing prior authorizations to see that medications are accessible, and they can even do the leg work of finding out where the info doctor needs resides. On top of all of this, the rep still knows what your competitor is doing and may have immeasurable knowledge about the market you serve if you ask them the right questions. I’d encourage any doctor to probe their reps to see what they really do know; identify the ones that bring value and please feel free to limit the rest but let them back in from time to time to see what has changed.

Any physician could choose to spend every waking hour managing their social media presence. In fact, anyone for any reason could choose to spend every waking hour. The time commitment can be vast and extremely undervalued in an era where it seems everyone has a Facebook page so it must be easy, right?
Most of us know how to change the oil on our cars. If you don’t know, it involves turning a bolt under the car and watching the oil come out then tightening the bolt and adding clean oil. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean we should all commit to spending an hour finding supplies, raising the car, changing the oil, cleaning up the spilled oil, and making sure we did it all correctly when we could run through a quick-lube shop in 15 minutes for slightly more than the cost of the oil alone. Some basic actions need to be taken for a physician to address the important task of managing their online presence and the link below provides a great overview.
One point to highlight is that success doesn’t always mean more patients. Even in competitive markets, some physicians have too many patients. We’ve only begun to measure and rank what defines success and must recognize that one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Essentially, while Doctor A may rightly measure in added patient volume, Dr. B seeks only to established as a thought-leader in neuropathic conditions, and Doctor C seeks only to disseminate information that is more trusted than Dr. Google. How will you be joining the discussion?

By Benjamin Brown, M.D..

The Medicare example in this article is exactly why Captive Medical Solutions exists to help Physicians earn more money and stay in practice providing the highest quality health care. Thanks Dr. Brown!

New service provides up to $250,000 of opportunity cash to medical practices. No personal credit. Funds can be used to expand, buy equipment, even make payroll in an emergency!

Finance Your Patients – A New Way.

How to Capture $5,775 per Physician this year!,0&topic=08







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