Radiologists Use Social Media to Raise Their Public Profile

Marcia Frellick

December 07, 2015

CHICAGO — Radiologists are generally behind the curve when it comes to social media, but in many ways it's the ideal platform for the field, Elliot Fishman, MD, said here at the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) 2015 Annual Meeting.

"Social media and the web really give us a chance to rebrand ourselves and redefine ourselves because we can reach out to the patients," Dr Fishman, professor of radiology and oncology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, told meeting attendees. An online presence can help raise the profile of radiologists, which is clearly needed.

During one focus group, "adults aged 35 and older were split as to whether a radiologist is a licensed physician or a technician" (Radiology. 2011;258:18-22), Dr Fishman reported.

One way to reach out is to provide links on individual social media sites directing patients to radiologyinfo.org, a site produced by the RSNA and the American College of Radiology, which was reformatted this summer for mobile devices.

The site is designed solely for patients and is available in Spanish and English. It currently gets up to 1 million hits a month. During the next 3 months, more than 100 videos will be posted, said Dr Fishman. They will walk patients through procedures such as mammograms and explain radiation doses in pediatric screening.

"You can download the videos and put them under your practice name," he added.

 
Social media and the web really give us a chance to rebrand ourselves.
 

Another resource for patients is the nonprofit Cancer Commons website, which describes itself as "LinkedIn for cancer." Patients enter their information and volunteers connect them with the right experts and services for their particular situation. In addition, patients can find relevant clinical trials on the site, along with current information.

Social media can also help recruit patients with rare diseases for trials. "Patients with rare diseases tend to be online looking for information," Dr Fishman said.

What and What Not to Share

Social media training for staff to know what and what not to share is also important.

And radiologists need to be monitoring social media to see what review sites say about their practice — good and bad, said Whitney Fishman Zember, senior partner for technology and consumer insights at MEC, a digital media agency, who is not related to Dr Fishman.

"You can drive those conversations," she said. In fact, not responding to a bad review is the worst choice, she explained.

Research has proven that if a physician responds to a bad review — by saying, "I saw what you said and I'd love to discuss it with you and address your concerns and make it a better experience for you" — a negative relationship can be turned into a positive one.

The Mayo Clinic is one health system that has mastered the use of social media, Zember said. On one day, for example, Mayo tweeted about five steps to help decide on cancer treatment, posted an in-house article on whether it's okay to have pets in the bedroom on Facebook, posted healthy fall recipes and mindfulness techniques on Pinterest, and pointed to a video on what it's like to be a nurse at Mayo on LinkedIn.

The content changes regularly, which is important for making your site relevant to patients, Zember explained.

Dr Fishman serves on the advisory board for and receives research support from Siemens AG; serves on the advisory board for General Electric; and is cofounder of Hip Graphics. Ms Zember has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) 2015 Annual Meeting: Abstract RC616. Presented December 3, 2015.

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