Make Friends With Social Media, Carefully

Concierge medicine opens up new opportunities to enhance patient-doctor relationships through social media. But doctors need to know how to use the tools to make the most of them. And they need to know how to do so responsibly. This first post will go over the basics. Keep this link handy, though, since links to more specific best practices will be added below over time.

Please be advised, do not start connecting with patients right away. At least not yet. First things first, get your head around social media. Then determine how you can use these tools to positively reinforce your relationship with the Web at large, as well as colleagues and patients.

If you’re already feeling comfortable with using Facebook and Twitter as a personal user, check out the growing list of topics covering Social Media Best Practices For Medical Professionals. Otherwise keep going for a breakdown of what Facebook and Twitter are useful for.


Facebook is like a filtered version of the water cooler. Think of it as going up to a coworker and asking, Did you read that article about concierge medicine in Forbes last month? Or pulling a photo out of your wallet and saying, Look at this picture of a broken tibia that was fixed by a robot from Wired Magazine. You obviously know how to have these conversations in person, with varying social grace. However, doing this simple action on Facebook might seem daunting. That’s understandable. It’s less predictable on the social Web since your side of the conversation is being perceived at large by an online community.

If you’re completely new to Facebook, you should watch this video first to get the gist (TIP: refresh your browser if the video isn’t displaying).

You’ll also want to set up a profile before you continue. If you’re unsure about how to do so, the Facebook help section is a great resource.

Once you’re set up, make sure you are comfortable with the idea of “Friending” people (both requesting people and accepting people’s requests); making “Status Updates;” “Liking” people’s updates, photos and links; and “Tagging” people in Posts. If any of this reminds you of your first year med school, that’s okay. It takes some getting used to. If you’re completely stumped, leave a comment below and we’ll do our best to help you out.


Twitter is different from Facebook, since it is a one-way stream of information. The best way to imagine it is like one infinite stream of information. Every water molecule in this stream originates from a source. By signing up, you become a new source. You can follow an unlimited number of sources. And you can add an unlimited number of molecules to the stream.

Okay, if you can imagine that, you’re ahead of the curve. However, using Twitter effectively takes some practice. First, you’ll need to sign up for an account. You can create a Twitter account here. It’s simple and you won’t hurt anyone by doing so. At least not yet, because you start with no followers. Meaning no one is aware of your contribution to the data stream yet.

Once you are up and running, make sure you know how to “Follow” and “Unfollow” people; how to “At Mention (@username);” and how to “Retweet,” “Favorite,” “Hashtag (#)” and “Direct Message.” It’s encouraged to explore the web and learn these actions yourself. Again, leave a comment below if you’re completely lost on any one of these actions.

Once you have the basics of the two leading social platforms, you might be wondering, what are the legal ramifications of using social media? That’s not a simple question to answer but here’s a two-part overview from HealthBlawg to get you started. The obvious issue is privacy, so remember not to share anything you wouldn’t be comfortable saying out loud in an elevator. Second of all, if patients’ lives are in jeopardy, prioritize the patients’ lives. Patients will likely forgive a social media faux pas in this instance.

Social Media Best Practices For Medical Professionals

Here’s a list of topics that will help you use Facebook and Twitter to positively influence your relationship with patients.