Social Media for Doctors: Are Doctor Networks Worth Your Time?
Most Americans use some form of social media. That’s why it should come as no surprise that people are using these platforms to express their opinions, shape their attitudes and seek out information about health care.
When you hear “social media”, what comes to mind? Probably one or more of these social networking giants:
But did you know there are also private social networks exclusively for doctors? While there are dozens of “pretenders” out there trying to gain traction, there are three real “contenders” who you should know about. In this article, we examine the top three doctor networks to help you answer this question:
Is the professional use of social media worth your time as a doctor?
SERMO: The Trailblazer
Founded all the way back in 2005, SERMO was the first social network exclusively for doctors.
Today, SERMO functions as a “virtual doctors’ lounge” that facilitates collaboration, particularly medical crowdsourcing. Over 800,000 verified doctors spanning 150+ countries use SERMO to pose real-life medical questions and obtain answers from their peers.
SERMO allows you to solve case problems on the go by connecting with your peers from the comfort of your mobile device. It proves to be incredibly helpful in situations where you may be isolated or for unusual medical cases. SERMO users can even earn extra money by participating in market research surveys regarding new drugs, treatment techniques and medical devices.
To date, SERMO has paid out out more than $100 million in honoraria to users across the globe for their valuable insights.
Like any social profile you create, SERMO allows you to choose exactly how much of your personal information you wish to share. However, what makes the SERMO community unique is that 90% of its users choose to remain anonymous. To ward off the trolls, every SERMO user must complete a thorough, three-stage credential check.
Doximity: The Gold Standard
Doximity launched in 2011 as a private social network site that connects doctors to peers they’ve already met, such as:
- Former classmates.
- Fellow residents in training.
- Professional colleagues.
Although Doximity has not been around as long as SERMO, it has already surpassed its elder in several areas:
- Over one million users have joined Doximity as of 2018.
- Approximately 70 percent of U.S. physicians use Doximity.
- Approximately 90 percent of fourth-year medical students use Doximity.
Furthermore, Doximity provides each user a personalized medical news and research feed, as well as salary trends based on your location and speciality.
The platform also offers tools that you can use to earn and track your continuing medical education (CME) credits. Doximity’s collaboration with the University of Pittsburg Medical Center empowers you to earn Category 1 credits by reading medical journals.
Unlike SERMO, Doximity is HIPPA-compliant. This allows Doximity to provide a phone dialer and a digital fax and messaging service so you contact patients from your personal cell phone.
Daily Rounds: The Rising Star
Just a few years ago, Dr. Deepu Sebin was inspired by Stack Overflow, a popular software development community. He wanted to created a similar platform, but for medicine. The result was Daily Rounds, an academic network that fuses components of medical journals and social media.
Today, over 300,000 medical professional use Daily Rounds to collaborate, read medical journals and interviews, access its drug database and store medical case files. Between medical guidelines and journal updates, Daily Rounds acts as the one of the largest point of care references.
Although available for on desktop, Daily Rounds is also great for learning on-the-go. Like SERMO and Doximity, Daily Rounds has a mobile app that is available for download on Android and iOS devices, as well as Google Play.
Is the professional use of social media worth your time as a doctor?
Now that you have a better idea of the doctor networks you have at your disposal, let’s get back to the main question:
Is social media worth your time?
Without further ado, here are the cases for and against the professional use of social media for doctors.
The case for doctors using social media
Most Americans used some form of social media in 2021. That’s why it should come as no surprise that people are using these platforms to express their opinions, shape their attitudes and seek out information about health care.
According to ReferralMD:
- 74% of internet users use social media. Of these users, 80% them also seek out health information at some point or another. And when they do, nearly half of those search for information about a specific provider.
With this in mind, here are several ways in which both mainstream social media and exclusive doctor networks can benefit medical professionals.
First and foremost, doctor networks promote physician-to-physician communication. Social media acts as an effective tool for doctors to communicate, not only to expand their knowledge but also to expand their professional network beyond geographical borders. It enables physicians to share their experiences and researches with their peers.
Doctor networks also advance academic research and development. A common theme among social media use in healthcare is user education. Many studies have illustrated the utilization of social media tools to improve clinical student’s comprehension of communication, professionalism, and ethics. They are also able to access scholarly articles, and medical journals through social networking platforms thus can work collectively.
Professional networking. Doctor networks promote professional networking and advancement. Of course, there’s also a place for doctors on mainstream platforms like LinkedIn; it’s just not nearly as targeted.
These platforms gives medical professionals a chance to interact, discuss, and learn from other medical professionals that they would never have otherwise met. The interaction with other medical practitioners also enables doctors to discover new research trends from different parts of the world.
Practice marketing. This is one area where mainstream social medial platforms have the upperhand on doctor networks. Mainstream social media platforms empower independent doctors to market their practice, just like any other small business owner would. Given their exclusivity, doctor networks simply are not ideal for reaching new patients.
Social networking sites can be effectively used for practice marketing and as a promotional platform at a lesser cost compared to other forms of advertising. As a medical practice owner, you can leverage the power of social media to market your business and reach a wider audience. Regular interactions will enable you to build credibility and trust with the online community.
The case against doctors using social media
On the other hand, social media use comes with its potential pitfalls, too. When used excessively or carelessly, it can inflict a financial or even mental strain on your work. Here’s what mainstream social media and doctor networks look like when they go wrong.
Little to no return on investment
When doctors use mainstream social media correctly, it can be incredibly profitable for their practice. When social media marketing is done incorrectly, however, it can absolutely drain your hard-earned money.
Whether you do it yourself or hire an outside agency, marketing your practice will come at a cost. It’s your job to decide how much you’re willing to spend. Devoting a handful of hours each week to social media marketing may cost your medical practice as much as several thousand dollars in gross billings. If your efforts don’t drive the kind of traffic you were hoping for, then you won’t generate the ROI you need to run a sustainable business either.
Ultimately, poor social media marketing done ends up being a waste of your two most valuable assets: time and money.
Just another way to burnout
Physician burnout is more widespread in 2023 than ever before. While doctor networks provide countless opportunties to engage, learn and grow, they also have the potential to further exacerbate the burnout crisis.
Like mainstream social media, each doctor network has its own culture and technology that comes with a learning curve. This means that you can spend lots of hours just trying to learn how to use them correctly. Adding this learning curve of several doctor-focused social networking sites could be the last straw in their workload.
Just like every other social media network, doctor networks were founded with good intentions. However, that doesn’t mean they are indestructible.
Doximity and Sermo are essentially 1A and 1B in the doctor network hierarchy. Whereas Sermo acts as a “Quora for medicine”, Doximity bears a closer resemblance to a “LinkedIn for doctors.” Meanwhile, Daily Rounds serves as a simple, solid alternative for learning on-the-go. It continues to gain popularity, especially among international physicians.
To be fair, there are also renowned niche networks like the Student Doctor Network and MomMD which cater to (you guessed it) students and moms, respectively. However, for our purposes we chose to focus on the platforms that are available to everyone in the field.
In review, here’s what we found out:
- Mainstream social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are best for private practitioners looking to market their practice. However, it may be difficult to do effectively on your own time. To maximize your ROI, you should consider hiring the experts to do it for you.
- Exclusive doctor networks like SERMO, Doximity and Daily Rounds are best for learning, community engagement and professional networking. Doctor networks are free, which means the only real concern here is that they may distract you from your actual work. It’s another way to bring your work home with you, and this could further contribute to physician burnout.
As a doctor, your time is incredibly valuable — regardless of your medical specialty or career stage. At the end of the day, how you choose to spend it is entirely up to you.