Physicians, What Can Blogs Do For You?

“It is our duty to remember at all times and anew that medicine is not only a science, but also the art of letting our own individuality interact with the individuality of the patient.” Albert Schweitzer (1875-2965)

Word-of-Mouth is the world’s most effective marketing strategy. As the old ads used to state “Friends tell friends and so on and so on….” Medical blogging has the potential to convey a provider’s/ physician’s sense of caring and knowledge about medicine. If used as a tool to improve communication to your patients/customers, medical blogging could be part of a plan to make you known as the most famous and friendly doctor in the community.

First a short story:

Two weeks ago, one of the physicians I work with was walking a patient to the reception area after seeing her. They walked right past my door and I could hear the patient asking the doctor for some advice on things she could do to improve her health status. The doctor responded with two brief suggestions and then stated, “Why don’t you visit my blog. I’ve got a number of other helpful suggestions there.”

Evidence and clinical research data seems to suggest that the
patient-provider relationship can influence treatment adherence and health outcomes in a variety of different disease states.

In fact a study by Felicia Trachtenberg and colleagues (2005) at the New England Research Institute published in The Journal of Family Practice , found that increased levels of trust in physicians is associated with greater willingness to seek care, to follow recommendations, and to grant physicians decisional authority over treatment. Additionally, higher trust in a specific physician is strongly associated with greater reported adherence to treatment.

In the days of 10-15 minute physician appointments, the patient-provider relationship is tenuous, at best. How could any sense of trust be built in such a short time? Doesn’t trust building require finding some commonalties between two people?

I would venture that given the current system, many patients feel that physicians are interchangeable. That’s just a travesty. Most providers go into healthcare because they really want to help people. However, the system they work in has squeezed the bedside manner and art of caring out of most work days. How can anyone be passionate about their job if their customers view them that way?

I would pose that medical blogs, while an investment of precious time, can be a tool to foster patient-provider relationships. Blogs are supposed to be a bit personal. However because of today’s climate in healthcare I avoid using an identity-type blog (Mommy blogs, or web diarys) as a communication tool with patients. Instead, perhaps utilize a more fact-based tone where key concepts and best clinical practices are emphasized with personal examples.

Example: Lets say you want to give some detailed information on how patients can fit more activity into the day. Instead of just writing down a list of ideas, you could frame the list as “6 things I’m trying this month to increase my activity level.” You are giving the same information, but you are adding a personal tone to it.

So how is this going to help?

For the physician I work with, his blog helps him to better manage his schedule. He knows what is on his blog and he since he wrote it he believes in the content. After giving a few bits of advice/information to get the patient started, he directs the patient to the blog as a place where he or she can locate more information at a later date.
Information overload for patients can be better managed. A physician simply cannot explain all the details of evidence-based practice in a short visit. Even if he or she could, a patient can only absorb so many facts and suggestions in a 15-minute time span. The blog provides a point of reference that can be referred back to time and again.
Timely, helpful, and trusted information on frequently asked questions can be available online 24 hours a day. This may reduce the number of time-consuming call-backs to patients.
The forum provided by the blog can introduce new members of the practice and point patients to staff that can help to answer specific questions. This kind of information helps patients better navigate the healthcare system and be more active participants in their own health.
By using a personal tone in your blog, patients may have more of an opportunity to learn about your interests and ideas. This in turn could make the process of establishing rapport a little easier. Saving a little time in this endeavor may translate into improved adherence to treatment and better outcomes.
Blogging also give providers an opportunity to share their personalities and establish themselves as experts. If your blog starts a buzz in your community and people like your online presence, then that improves your chance of being sought out as an opinion leader. This may open new doors for you professionally and may improve the strength of your practice/business.
In closing, I’m not claiming that blogging is the only tool needed in a healthcare marketing toolbelt. However, it can have some time-saving benefits and can help patients take a more active role in their healthcare. I also believe it could possibly make you the most-likable Doc in your community!

“The treatment of a disease may be entirely impersonal; the care of a patient must be completely personal.” Francis Weld Peabody, MD, Harvard Physician (1881-1927)

Carol is the Vice President of The Promedica Research Center. She has a masters degree from Mercer University in Health Policy and Administration and currently teaches a master’s level course on Health Care Organizations for the University of Phoenix (Online), College of Health Sciences.

In October 2005, Carol started a blog for her continuing education company to help

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