3 Social Media Do's and Don'ts for Oncologists

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If used right, social media can help your oncology practice grow.
If used right, social media can help your oncology practice grow.

Social media has become a popular networking and marketing platform for oncologists, so much so that 72% of oncology professionals now use it. However, for all of its advantages, social media has its drawbacks. It's easy to feel insulated from real-life consequences behind a phone or computer screen, but a slip up can cost you dearly. Here are 3 examples of what you should and shouldn't do on social media:

DO…

1.   Follow colleagues and reliable oncology news outlets. With so little free time, tracking what's going on outside the walls of your practice can be tough. Social media is a great way to stay up-to-date on case studies and other oncology developments that affect your practice and your patients. Follow the accounts of esteemed colleagues and dependable news outlets and you'll get the information you need quickly. Just spend a few minutes at the end of the day scrolling through your feed and you'll be all caught up.

2.   Set a plan for how frequently you'll post and follow through on it. An inactive social media profile can give patients the impression you're not tech-savvy. More importantly, by remaining inactive, you're missing an opportunity to spread oncology news and updates about your practice that current and prospective patients will appreciate. Decide how often you'll post on Twitter, Facebook, and all of your other social media profiles, and follow through on your plan. Your patients will know what to expect and you'll stay present in their feeds (and minds).

3.   Encourage a dialogue. Rather than make a post and disappear, check in afterward to see if anyone has left a response. When you receive a response – with the exception of anything you deem out of bounds – write back. Try to drum up conversation by asking relevant questions. Social media is a two-way street and patients will hold you in higher regard if you don't simply promote your practice and then vanish.

DON'T…

1.   Violate patient privacy rules. It's a no-brainer but it's worth mentioning because it's paramount: don't compromise any patient's privacy online. Treat the privacy of your patients online the same way you do in person. HIPAA was implemented prior to social media, but its standards apply here, too. Write a HIPAA social media policy for your staff and train them to follow it. Always remember, if you wouldn't say it in public, you shouldn't say it online.

2.   Get too personal. Some patients send friend requests to their oncologist. If this happens to you, ignore or decline the request. You may feel rude or guilty for not accepting, but the need to maintain boundaries should outweigh those feelings. Also, if a patient asks a personal health question, politely ask them to contact your office. Never give out specific medical advice on social media.

3.   Make non-oncology-related posts on your professional profiles. Many oncologists create professional profiles for patients and colleagues, and personal profiles for family and friends. It's a good strategy if you're looking to use social media for non-professional purposes such as sharing pictures of your kids and pets. Whether or not you create separate profiles, never make personal posts on your professional profiles. Your patients follow you to learn about what's happening at your practice and developments in oncology, so give them that and only that.

Social media is a powerful tool for oncologists, but remember that you have an obligation to use it wisely. If you do, your reputation and your practice will benefit for it.

Reference

Adilman R, Rajmohan Y, Brooks E, et al. ReCAP: social media use among physicians and trainees: results of a national medical oncology physician survey. J Oncol Pract. 2016;12(1):79-80.

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