Certainly those of you in the “midcycle” of your professional careers can easily remember when, as interns, you tried to reach an attending physician only to find he/she was “out for the evening, but a message would be left.” That was before pagers and cell phones and computers and the Internet.
Fast-forward to the 21st century; our practices have evolved in the past 20-plus years. No more can a subspecialist serve only one hospital and maintain a robust practice. Our patients have become mobile and decentralized; they will not come to the “big hospital” in town, but rather they will go to the satellite clinics in the suburbs or to the local hospital. All this necessitates a redesign of our practices to follow our patients. The same thing has happened with regard to how we engage our communities and advertise the services we offer. Gone are the days when a cadre of referring physicians knew who you were, knew what you stood for and knew of your quality of care. Competition to provide services has become intense; patients use the Internet to research who you are before they even schedule an appointment in your office. Patient peer-to-peer referrals have become the norm.
Currently over 50 percent of the world’s population is under 30 years old, Google® and Facebook® have become accepted norms in communication. Indeed, one in five couples now meet online. Our children are learning their lessons on iPads, not blackboards. LinkedIn® signs up a new member every minute. If Facebook® were a country its members would make it the third largest country in the world. As Erik Quailman, bestselling author of Socialnomics, put it, “We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.” Generations Y and Z consider email passé. Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Britney Spears have more Twitter followers than the countries of Sweden, Israel, Greece, Chile, North Korea and Australia. How’s that for reaching out?
Sales of ereaders have surpassed traditional book sales. Universities are no longer even assigning email accounts. If Wikipedia were made into a book it would be 2.25 million pages long and would take 123 years to read. Ninety percent of consumers trust peer-to-peer recommendations—think Yelp® and Angie’s List.® Only 14 percent trust advertisements. Welcome to the social-media revolution!
Facebook,® Google,® LinkedIn,® You Tube,® Yelp,® Bing®: that’s the world our patients live in. Fast and furious, it impacts all of us. Our ability to control our message—who we are or, more importantly, how we are perceived in the social media—is critical to our business success. It’s already happening. Many of your colleagues are experimenting with Facebook® pages and Twitter® accounts, reaching out to their customers, their patients. Just when I was getting used to our webpage, it’s passé! I may be old-fashioned, but I certainly am excited about getting involved in the new media. As we said in the ‘60s, “Be there or be square.”
I look forward to your comments,
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