Speaking Out on Social Media

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Social media has become a force to be reckoned with. Three experts share their thoughts on why and how radiologists can leverage social media to better their practices and connect with their patients.

Leveraging Social Media for the Imaging Enterprise

 - Safwan Halabi, MDBy: Safwan Halabi, MD @radhelper

The imaging enterprise has a huge public relations problem. Since the advent of PACS and real-time speech transcription, radiologists have sequestered themselves in reading rooms and thrown away the key. The days of radiology rounds and daily interactions with referring providers are gone. 

To make matters worse, patients are not aware that physicians with specialized training are responsible for the acquisition and interpretation of imaging exams.

To help counteract this trend, the American College of Radiology launched the “Face of Radiology” campaign in 2008 to educate the public about what radiologists do.

In comes another disrupting technology: social media. It is almost impossible to view a print ad or website without being directed to a social media site. When the lights went out during the Super Bowl, the Twitter community was set ablaze with activity stealing thunder from the game.

How do radiologists use the social media playbook to develop digital trust with the healthcare community? Ironically, the ingredients to a successful social media presence are similar to the successful medical practice: availability, affability and ability.


An exponentially growing number of patient consumers are living, breathing and interacting 24/7 on social media platforms. In a recent poll from the Health Research Institute and PricewaterhouseCoopers, one-third of patient consumers reported using social media sites for health-related matters, including seeking medical information, tracking and sharing symptoms and broadcasting how they feel about doctors.

Clinicians and patients want same-day imaging results and access to imaging and reports on the digital device of their choice. 

It is essential that healthcare providers develop a social media apparatus that can communicate to and with their constituency. These platforms provide around the clock ‘availability’—which helps retain current, and recruit new, patient consumers.


Many providers have written off social media because of its novelty (inability to understand the technology), lack of security (fear of the HIPAA police) and transparency (fear of revealing skeletons in the closet). However, the affability and transparency of one’s practice rarely goes unnoticed by the patient consumer. 

Newer generations of patient consumers will demand full disclosure and transparency demonstrated by their willingness to share their most personal thoughts on social media. Will the radiologist be willing to reciprocate this level of transparency? Are we comfortable to engage patients on their terms?


The ability of a healthcare provider was traditionally the benchmark that distinguished practices. Ability has taken a back seat to availability and affability. However, practices can highlight and amplify their abilities through social media. We have seen providers jump into the social media maelstrom by Tweeting surgeries with video. My contention is making healthcare digitally accessible will inflate the perception of ability in patients’ eyes.

Getting in the game

What steps should a radiology practice take to plug into the social media machine? Success or failure will depend on: a willingness to connect to the patient consumer in non-traditional ways; a strategic plan; and dedicated personnel. 

Determine Your Objectives

  • Identify the customers you want to engage (e.g. physicians, patients, employees)
  • Offer transparent customer service
  • Build upon and enhance your brand recognition
  • Increase local, regional and national exposure

Know Your Target Market

  • Make a list of 5-10 target markets
  • Continue to reassess your targets and adjust accordingly
  • Offer various platforms for different markets and various campaigns for different users

Follow Your Competition

  • Develop a competitive analysis profile
  • Go to competitors’ websites and follow their links
  • Login to sites like Facebook and LinkedIn and search for competitors’ profiles

Craft Your Message

  • Deliver content that is timely, engaging, entertaining, thought-provoking and educational
  • Think outside the box
  • Understand social media etiquette

We owe it to our patient consumers to adopt social media. This will undoubtedly help them feel more informed