Maintaining a vibrant online presence is crucial for a doctor or medical practice in today’s digital world. In this space, we talk about everything from creating valuable content to using social media.
But old-school doctors can take heart in one thing that’s not likely to change: it’s still important to be careful about giving medical advice online.
A study by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 46 of the 50 U.S. states had at least 1 instance of a doctor being formally reprimanded for online behavior.
It can seem unfair. On the one hand, doctors are being told to engage with patients online. On the other hand, they’re being told that they can face professional consequences for doing so.
Where’s the middle ground?
It starts with this simple rule: keep it general.
It’s one thing to post information on Facebook about the different flu viruses that are hitting your community this year. It’s another thing entirely to give specific advice to a specific person asking questions in the comments. In those cases, people should be told they need to come into the office for a face-to-face conversation.
On a similar note, it’s one thing to post an article on the website about the importance of getting a prostate check or a mammogram. It’s another to include a specific example of a recent patient while discussing symptoms or to provide concrete answers to questions that may come in through the contact form in response to the article.
Doctors must be aware of these boundaries, and know what they can and can’t say in a public forum. Those that may be entrusted with raising website visibility can remember this simple marketing principle.
The whole point of what you’re doing is to get people physically into your office. Once you’ve raised awareness of the practice online, your prospects can become patients.