RSNA13: Radiologists should embrace social media

Radiologists no longer should be asking themselves whether or not they should be engaging in social media, according to Elliot Fishman, director of diagnostic imaging and body CT at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. The reality, Fishman (pictured) said this week during a session at the Radiological Society of North America's annual conference in Chicago, is that "they have to."

Fishman pointed out that patient-provider communications no longer are one-directional, as they were back in the day of the fictional TV doctor Marcus Welby. "When you went to the doctor, spoke to the doctor, he told you what to do, you listened, and that was the end of the study," Fishman said. Now that conversation has evolved into an open, interactive dialogue--one that's being facilitated by social media.

And much has changed in only the past three years, Fishman said. "If I had given this talk three years ago, it basically would have said social media was not something for radiologists." There would have been privacy concerns, as well as concerns about social media's uncontrolled environment, he said, "and it just didn't seem very professional."

Now, Fishman pointed out, the evidence suggests that the use of social media clearly has become professional. A couple of things have changed, Fishman said. First, radiologists--as well as other healthcare providers--have learned just how much information is available online. "We have learned to appreciate the power of the Web," he said.

People also are being conditioned to look for information online, he said. We expect people to go online to look for weather reports, stock market information, or read the news, Fishman said, "so it's only natural that they're going to [go to the Web] for medical information."

What's more, patients are building their own trusted information networks, Fishman said. "It's hard to tell patients what to do--they want to make the connections themselves." They also want the ability to receive information quick and interactively, he said

Which means that patients are willing and eager to engage with healthcare providers via social media. Fishman pointed to a 2012 survey from PricewaterhouseCoopers that found that--among other things--61 percent of consumers would likely trust information posted by providers via social media; that led him to conclude that what patients want from their healthcare provides via social media, "is something we're probably not providing."

Considering the fact that many patients still don't know what radiologists do and what kind of services they provide, Fishman said, social media is really a good way "of getting our message across."


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