Why Have a Digital Network?
Use of popular online tools can make communication, education, and networking easier.
Do you have an online presence? Is it active, or have you created accounts and then done nothing with them? It may not seem important, but having an online presence can establish or improve your reputation as a member of a cutting-edge medical practice. Patients expect to find you online. When managed properly, your online presence can help prove to patients that you care about them.
AT A GLANCE
• An online presence consists of a combination of digital tools, which can include a website and social media accounts, used to initiate and maintain relationships with colleagues, referring health care providers, and patients.
• Your online presence can be as simple or as complicated as you desire.
• Different social media platforms target different groups of people. Keep this in mind when choosing which ones to participate in.
In fact, using terms and language that patients can understand easily shows them that you are willing to engage them in a manner (ie, using layman’s terms) and through media (ie, digital) that they prefer.
A well-managed digital presence can help you to stand apart from your competition. Additionally, harnessing these online resources can enhance your communication with colleagues and referring physicians. This article explains the basic importance of creating and maintaining a digital network for your retina practice.
WHAT IS AN ONLINE PRESENCE?
The term online presence refers to anything found on the Internet that is connected to you. An online presence can comprise a combination of platforms, such as a website and email and social media accounts. This presence allows you to use electronic devices, such as laptops, smartphones, etc., to communicate with and share information with colleagues, referring doctors, and patients (see “Benefits of a Digital Network”).
Your online presence can be as extensive as you want. The more platforms you use, the larger and more complex your network. My online presence consists of a website, an email subscriber list, a Facebook account, a Google+ account, a YouTube channel, and a Twitter account. I periodically host webinars and post videos on YouTube.
Why You Need a Website
Social media and review sites such as Yelp merely draw attention to a medical practice. The next logical step for someone interested in learning more about your practice is to search for your website. Think of social media platforms and review sites as road signs directing traffic to your website.
A website is the most economical and effective marketing tool at your disposal. With sufficient search engine optimization, a website has the potential to elicit high rankings in search engine results pages (eg, the result of someone googling your name) to give you great exposure online.
If you have a website that is not current, update it. If you do not have a website, create one. At the very least, a website should include an “about” page (preferably written in the first person) and a “contact” page that lists all of your contact information. With time, you can add content about the services you provide and the conditions you treat.
The more content a website has, the more likely it will be to attract patients and to achieve and maintain high search engine rankings. A website that contains articles and other content will serve as a rich educational resource for referring doctors and patients. Additionally, when crafted correctly, a practice website can also be effective for attracting your next colleague.
Social Media: What’s Necessary?
Social media platforms, used effectively, can get you and your practice noticed on the Internet. Those who see a social media posting and are interested in learning more will seek out a website, so wait until your website is up and running before getting involved with social media.
You do not need to be active on every social media platform; there are far too many, and that would be impractical. The platforms you choose to use to share your content will depend on the group you are targeting. Facebook is the largest social media platform and is also the largest aggregator. I recommend Facebook because so many people are familiar with the platform. Additionally, it aggregates business information (without your knowing it), and it is a great search tool when patients are looking for your particular services in their zip code. Google+ may be used similarly. An additional advantage of Google+ is that it can help you collect reviews about yourself and your practice.
LinkedIn and Doximity are intended for use in connecting with your professional colleagues. On LinkedIn, you can tell colleagues about yourself as a professional. Doximity is specifically for doctors and other health care providers. It helps you find others in your specialty, and it can be a great way for you to brag about your practice and appeal to those looking for employment opportunities.
Remember, your website should serve as a comprehensive resource; it should not simply be a replication of information you share on social media platforms.
BENEFITS OF A DIGITAL NETWORK
A digital network allows you to communicate and share information with colleagues, referring doctors, and patients. It can help you to:
• Attract new patients from referring doctors
• Attract new patients directly
•Improve your reputation
•Grow your practice
•Attract new associates
•Build a referral base
OFFER VALUABLE CONTENT
In order to create a successful digital network, one must provide value. Thus, any content (eg, articles, posts, tweets, videos, etc.) must be relevant and interesting to one’s audience. Value can be provided by sharing something interesting, educational, and relevant to your readers. This also means that what is shared with colleagues may be different from what is shared with referring doctors and patients.
For example, for retina colleagues, valuable content might be sharing nuances about a new diagnostic tool recently purchased or a surgical video. For referring doctors, value may be a discussion of the importance of timely referral to a retina specialist. For patients, valuable content may simply be education on the need for routine examinations.
KEEP IT CURRENT
Use your online presence—your website and social media platforms—as a communication tool with which to stay in touch with colleagues, meet new referring doctors, and directly attract new patients. This referral network will always be a work in progress in a dynamic practice. A great referral network should always be under construction. n
Randall V. Wong, MD
• founder of Medical Marketing Enterprises and Healthcare and
Medical Internet Marketing; co-producer of the Russ and Randy
podcast on iTunes; retina specialist at Dressler Ophthalmology
Associates PLC in Fairfax, Va.
• financial interest: none acknowledged