Should Doctors be Influencers?

By now, you’ve probably heard or seen posts from a major healthcare influencer, such as Dr. Sanjay Gupta or Dr. Mikhail Varshavski (aka Dr. Mike) on your social media feeds. In the past few years, more and more doctors are engaging with social media. And some of their audiences are growing wildly by the thousands and even millions.

Having a platform can be an opportunity to share important medical information. But it also provides an opportunity to share misinformation, such as the doctors who promote unproven medicine and remedies as cures for COVID-19. This duality has prompted the question – Should doctors be influencers?

My answer: yes.

When you think about the healthcare industry as a whole, it is a privatized market just like any other. Increasing numbers of medical providers mean that people have more options when it comes to choosing healthcare, and online doctor shopping means that they don’t have to follow through with referrals anymore.

These changes in the healthcare industry warrant changing practices, such as increased marketing. As time progresses, healthcare practices must be more diligent and precise with their marketing strategies in order to keep afloat and stay competitive with other practices. This includes utilizing social media. While practices may have their own organizational pages, some doctors want to take ownership of their online presence and use it as a platform to connect with patients and share information.

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Doctors who are making themselves more accessible via social media are actually doing a really great thing. Pew research shows that people are more likely to trust healthcare providers more than almost any other source when it comes to important medical information. This has been much-needed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as people need trustworthy, reliable sources. As frustrating as it may be, social media is where a lot of people get a lot of their information, so it makes sense that doctors want to meet people where they are and provide them with important information. In fact, it can even boost national health literacy, which you can learn more about in our white paper.

Of course, some of the pushback on this topic occurs when doctors use social media platforms to spread misinformation. But the good news is that many of them don’t do that- in fact, they mostly post content to debunk circulating misinformation. Doctors take on a certain degree of risk when they decide to brand themselves and become influencers. Having a public, wide-reaching profile opens them up for more scrutiny, which could backfire if they post something insensitive, misleading, or just plain wrong. The fact that their reputations are on the line- both in the social media world and their healthcare industry- is solid insurance to make sure they’re staying accountable.

I stay firm in my opinion that doctors should be social media influencers. The information they have to share is more relevant than most out there anyway. Not only does it develop stronger relationships between doctors and patients, but it can increase patient acquisition and health literacy, keeps people informed, and initiates success for those who are willing to put themselves out there. Just as the healthcare industry is growing and evolving, people must keep up with it. I have nothing but respect for those who are willing to do that.

Thoughts, questions, comments, or concerns? Reach out and let’s start a conversation.