You may be a medical student spending late nights in the gross anatomy lab and early mornings pre-rounding on general surgery patients, or an intern sharing bad news with the families of your patients for the first time as a physician. You may be a pre-Obamacare resident who is witnessing tremendous change in healthcare or a fellow nervously preparing for the increased responsibility of attending physician. You may have just started your medical practice and are looking to establish yourself in the community or you may be a senior physician waxing eloquent with hopes of inspiring physicians for generations to come. No matter where you are in your medical career, starting a blog is just what the doctor ordered.
Six Reasons Ophthalmologists Should Blog
1 – Your patients are listening
In a recent 2013 study, 72% of internet users report searching online for health information within the past year. Furthermore, 77% of online health information seekers start their search using Google, Bing, or Yahoo. Think about that for just a moment, the knowledge you have spent years acquiring is the exact information your patients are trying to find online. Your patients are online, and they are listening. They are listening for you to explain to them the pros and cons of specific treatments, how to treat their child’s symptoms, and what are your thoughts on the future of healthcare to better advise their teenagers as they being to explore career options. Your insightful and informative physician blog articles, containing quality content and strategic search-engine optimization, will appear within the top search results on Google, Bing, or Yahoo, will reach your patients, and will be heard. Just as we have been taught time and time again, listen to your patients. Your patients have spoken, they are online, and they are listening.
2 – Skip the peer-review and just publish!
Let’s be honest. The peer-review process of publishing can be just downright painful. Having published over a dozen peer-reviewed journal articles and several textbook chapters, I have experienced the pains of peer-review. Your research enthusiasm begins with a well-formulated hypothesis, diminishes slightly by IRB rejections and data collection, is rejuvenated by the excitement of statistically significant results. Gradually, with each request for significant revision, you begin to wonder if the orange carrot of publication is just too far out of reach, and you wonder if publishing will be satisfying enough to justify your time, effort, and painful determination. By publishing on your physician blog, your publication turn-around time will be limited only by your ability to proofread your content and the readership of your work has the potential to be much greater. Please don’t misunderstand-the peer-review process works well for reaching an audience of researchers and physicians through highly-respected academic journals, but if your intention is to reach an audience beyond the journal’s subscription readers, you will love the ability to quickly publish your editorials and academic work on your blog.
3 – You must have a voice in order to be heard
Imagine the last time you attended a college or professional sporting event with thousands of your team’s most-dedicated fans screaming at the referees, coaches, and players on the field. Your words, no matter how loudly yelled, travelled mere feet in front of you, dissipating like a puff of breath on a cold winter’s night, never to be heard by your intended audience. Now imagine if you were like the burly, bearded man fifty rows behind you, who proudly yells through his team-logo-adorned megaphone, knowing full well his words are heard not only by every fan in your section, but even by the opposing team’s quarterback. Your physician blog is like the megaphone-man broadcasting his opinions to nearly everyone in the already-loud internet stadium. Your blog amplifies your voice from being heard only by your inner circle of friends and family, instead reaching internet spectators worldwide. Your blog will determine the distance of your physician voice. As discussed in my recent article, the future of healthcare social media will be based on the ability to quickly mobilize leaders to influence public opinion. When the time comes that you need your voice to be heard, whether by your patients or by the public everywhere, you will be confident knowing your physician-blog-megaphone will powerfully transmit your message worldwide.
4 – The 3 E’s of e-patients – engage, educate, empower
When David deBronkart, better known as “e-patient Dave,” was diagnosed in January 2007 with kidney cancer, he rapidly learned to use every aspect of empowerment, technology, and participatory medicine to beat the odds. The methods he used to become an engaged patient were published in the e-patient White Paper and sparked what is now known as the e-patient revolution. As said by Dr. Don Dizon, “Patients who are engaged are often termed “e-patients.” They have turned to the Internet to learn about their afflictions, read up on biology, available treatments, and so forth. Indeed, they are demanding better care, and a more active role in their own treatment, as well as for those they love and advocate for.” Your physician blog will provide you a forum in which to engage with patients, educating them on the fundamentals of their disease and treatment, and empowering them to use this knowledge to make informed, educated, autonomous decisions. Your blog will ensure that you satisfy the 3 E’s of e-patients – engage, educate, empower.
5 – Show your Saturday side
What do you do on your Saturdays away from the hospital? Are you an avid bicyclist, golfer, cook, or musician? Sharing who you are outside of medicine gives you permission to connect with your patients in a way that transcends the physician-patient relationship. Your physician blog will allow you to show your patients who you are on Saturdays and every other day when you are not wearing your white coat and stethoscope. The key is vulnerability, considered by many to be a true virtue of medicine. In a recent KevinMD article, Michael Metzner discusses the power of vulnerability in effective human connection. He cites the work of Brené Brown, a researcher at the University of Houston, who has looked at the power of vulnerability and how it applies to the human connection. Dr. Brown defines vulnerability as the “courage to be imperfect and the compassion to be kind to yourself and then to others.” She discusses that vulnerability is necessary for effective human connection and leads to authenticity, thus enabling us to truly connect with others. This authenticity is what is most important in the physician-patient relationship.” Your blog will allow you to share your hobbies and interests with your patients, creating genuine authenticity, and enhancing the relationships you have with your patients.
6 – Your blog – the hub of your online identity
The most practical of reasons for starting a physician blog is to provide a central hub for your online professional reputation. As mentioned above, your physician blog will be indexed on Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines, and will rise to the first pages of search results as you consistently provide interesting, high-quality content to your readers. As you consistently publish content on your physician blog, you will recognize the need to disseminate the new content to potential readers, leading you to use microblogging to share your message using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and others. By providing links to your physician blog on your practice and personal social media sites, professional networking sites like LinkedIn and Doximity, and physician ratings websites such as Healthgrades, Vitals, and Yelp you will drive traffic to your blog, expand your readership, improve search engine optimization, and build your practice.
Whether you are a medical student, intern, resident, or seasoned physician, now is the time to start your blog.
Will you be at the AAO Annual Meeting in Chicago? Come to the Learning Lounge from 4-5 PM on Saturday and participate in the discussion on blogging for ophthalmologists!