Dermatologists embrace social networking to stay in touch with patients

March 1, 2011

Businesses have found sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to be effective ways to keep their name in the public, and physicians continue to sign on as they explore ways to keep in touch with patients.

Key Points

Facebook claims to have more than 320 million registered users, Twitter says it's on track to hit 200 million this year and LinkedIn declares 90 million.

Businesses have found these sites to be an effective way to keep their name in the public, and physicians continue to sign on as they explore ways to keep in touch with patients.

Gregory G. Papadeas, D.O., practices in Aurora, Colo. His group started a Facebook page in the last quarter of 2010. Although the verdict is out on the effectiveness of the page, Dr. Papadeas expects to stick with it.

"I must admit, I'm not a Facebook page person myself. I'm not on Facebook, although my children certainly are," he says. "Facebook has become an especially powerful tool in many areas. We wanted to get on Facebook because it's a basic and simple way that the world is looking at things."

In practice for 19 years, Dr. Papadeas says the site quickly gained more than 100 fans. Although he isn't sure it's translating into additional patients, the process is so easy, he says, there's no real downside to continuing.

"We don't spend a lot of time or money on marketing. This is limited to one young lady who manages the site on a limited basis, maybe once a week. We put our services and the specials we're offering on it, but we intentionally do not communicate with patients because our days are so busy seeing people.

"We want patients to be aware we are here, but we would rather address questions they may have in a more traditional manner, either on the phone or in person," Dr. Papadeas says.

Physician focus?

In St. Petersburg, Fla., solo practitioner Margaret A. Kelleher, M.D., began using social networks recently, but she isn't sure they are geared toward physicians.

Despite less-than-optimal results, Dr. Kelleher agrees Facebook and Twitter are inexpensive. "We're able to let patients know about new services we're offering, or that we're changing our office hours. It really can be a service for our patients. What we don't do is get personal. I don't want to give medical advice online. That's important."

Holding off

Other dermatologists say they have nothing against using social networks - they just haven't signed on for a variety of reasons, from lack of time to lack of computer literacy. Robert T. Hayman, M.D., in New Hyde Park, N.Y., has been a pediatric dermatologist for 12 years. He describes his practice as "kind of old-school."