Recently we had the opportunity to interview Russell Faust, MD, PhD about social media and his involvement with healthcare social media. Dr. Faust is an award-winning physician-scientist, author, and entrepreneur; he is co-founder, CEO, and Chief Medical Officer for Anicca Media, LLC. Here are some of the wonderful insights Dr. Faust had to offer.
MDWebPro: How long have you been active with social media?
Russell Faust, MD, PhD: Depends on how you define “social media.” Of course, email is technically social media; it is media, and it is clearly social, but for popular usage, I entered the ‘digital world’ 3 years ago when it occurred to me that all of my patients literally live in the digital world. As a pediatric surgical specialist, the parents of my younger patients are themselves young (at least, much younger than me), and they spend time on social media. My teenage patients are, of course, on social media.
I started out slowly: “lurking” on Twitter and very sporadically visiting Facebook. When I realized that most of my patients and their families were arriving to my clinics with stacks of print-outs from the internet and that most of that was misinformation, I decided to provide my patients with accurate healthcare information. I started a medical education blog site.
As a pediatric ENT doc, my patients call me their booger doctor (booger, bugar, boogor – rhymes with “sugar”), then they laugh hysterically. So my site is www.boogordoctor.com
I talk a little bit about how that started here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0soh4sDhJg&feature=g-all-u
With a long history as a tech geek (BS Major in Neuroscience; Minor in AI, back in the 70’s before artificial intelligence became a common term; published the first text on Robotic Surgery), and with a medical blog under my belt, I began receiving invitations to consult for “HCSM” applications. This practice eventually grew into Anicca Media (“ah-knee’-kuh”; Sanskrit or Pali, meaning impermanent, always changing. We thought that described Social Media pretty well). At Anicca Media, our mission is to leverage digital and social media, and great content, to create better connected, more responsive, and trusted healthcare organizations.
MDWebPro: What platforms do you actively participate with (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.)?
RF: I try to provide value content on Twitter by ‘curating’ – filtering, collecting, and presenting – quality links a few times per week, @boogordoctor. Also tweeting under @russellfaust; becoming more active on G+; LOVE G+ hangout!
MDWebPro: What was appealing about involving yourself with social media?
RF: I originally built my blog simply to educate and inform my patients; I expected maybe a couple hundred visits per month. But a funny thing happened: visits grew to several thousand per month, and my blog currently has over 15,000 page-views per month.
The benefits for a physician, or hospital, are many:
- My new patients arrive at my clinic already feeling like they have a “relationship” with me: they have seen my photo; they have read about my practice philosophy; they know how I will approach a particular clinical problem. This is a huge contribution to a positive “Patient Experience.”
- My patients arrive at my clinic already educated. I don’t spend nearly as much time in the clinic bringing them up to speed on various remedies or surgical procedures. That allows us to spend our time in the clinic to be more-focused on their unique, personal healthcare issues. Again, big contribution to positive Patient Experience, and big time-savings for my clinic flow.
- Patients feel more connected, more “engaged”, they know that they can email me anytime with questions. In my experience, nearly 100% of patients and families remember something they wanted to ask the doc, but neglected to ask during the visit. Social media extends our physician-patient relationship beyond the exit door to my clinic. My patients remain better connected. And studies suggest that this enhanced relationship contributes to higher patient-compliance. That, in turn, translates to better healthcare, better outcomes.
- These issues above may seem more qualitative than quantitative. However, they all contribute to optimizing the patient experience, to optimizing operational efficiencies (things like streamlined clinic flow). ALL of these help add to the financial bottom line. Finally, there is the added benefit of leverage or “amplification” in the digital world. Digital word of mouth grows much more rapidly than traditional marketing could hope to match. We have case studies at Anicca Media on social media program ROI, finding that it is much greater than traditional marketing.
MDWebPro: Do you have separate social media accounts for your professional life and personal life?
RF: Yes, I do separate my personal and professional accounts.
I wrote an article on Doctors and “Friends” here:
MDWebPro: What do you think are some of the biggest hurdles for the healthcare community regarding social media?
RF: We (Anicca Media) conducted a poll in February, 2012, asking about the top reasons that physicians do not participate in social media. Without detailing them, I can say that ALL of those reasons are easily dismissed. They have not been an issue in my own experience, or any of the other physicians who actively participate in social media.
MDWebPro: Do you participate in any of the weekly Twitter chats?
RF: I have sporadically participated in the #hcsm chat, but with three young children at home, the timing is not ideal – it interferes with bath-story-bed-time, so I don’t get there as often as I would like.
MDWebPro: Do you feel healthcare’s involvement in social media is a passing phase?
RF: HCSM is definitely NOT a passing phase! The specific platforms may come and go – after all, they are merely tools for connecting – but the act of connecting in the digital world will only grow, become more pervasive and easier in our lives. That includes our ability to access and edit our medical data, our ability to access our physicians and various experts for advice, and the ability to share anything and everything in the digital world.
As with all evolving technologies, there will be growing pains and mistakes, but we can also expect huge advances in optimizing healthcare through social technology. Right now, mHealth and telehealth are bringing healthcare to relatively inaccessible rural communities; gamification is incentivizing patient populations for greater compliance and better outcomes; the list goes on, in good ways. We are only at the beginning of what is possible.
Russell Faust, MD, PhD is an award-winning physician-scientist, author, and entrepreneur; he is co-founder, CEO, and Chief Medical Officer for Anicca Media, LLC – a digital media agency helping physician practices and hospitals to connect with their online patient communities, and pharmaceutical and medical device companies to connect with physicians. He is advisor for several tech- and biotech-startups; he is also guest Faculty at Oakland University School of Business, Executive MBA in Healthcare Program, where he lectures on branding and social media in healthcare. Dr. Faust is a Pediatric ENT surgical specialist with a passion for using social media to optimize patient care, and he is an author on how physicians can enter the digital world to build their practices and improve healthcare.