The 2 Essential Online Channels Physicians Can Use for Public Health Education and Advocacy

fact vs fake

By Christopher Oseh
October 6, 2020

During the global lockdown period of the Coronavirus pandemic, I woke up on a Saturday morning to see this direct message on my Facebook messenger:

 “Hi Doc, please how do I know if I have contracted the Covid-19 virus”.

It was from one of my friends who had become anxious after reading false information online about the COVID-19 virus. She quickly reached out to me with this question because she knew I was active on Facebook.

Social media platforms receive huge numbers of visitors on a daily basis and individuals spend time socializing and absorbing information from these channels. According to Statista, there are 3.96 billion active social media users globally, and Facebook has 2.7 billion active monthly users, so inappropriate health information posted and shared by a single influential social media user can reach millions of people globally.

With the right strategy, however, physicians can utilize social media channels coupled with a search engine optimized personal blog to disseminate credible health information online, network actively with their peers across the globe, and become better health advocates.

WHY DOCTORS NEED TO BE ONLINE NOW

Doctors can build a loyal online community of followers through publishing credible health content on social media and personal blogs. Physicians can also stay abreast of the latest research trends and findings by reading the posts and content shared by their peers and other healthcare influencers they choose to follow.

Here are some best practices physicians can use to get started.

SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY FOR DOCTORS TO EDUCATE AND ADVOCATE FOR HEALTH POLICIES

The goal of using social media channels is to build connections and interact with others by posting content that attracts and engages people. Social media content can be in the form of texts, images or videos. To be effective, your content on social media must have three essential qualities; it must be:

  1. Valuable: Your content solves problems or helps a target audience.
    • Decide on a topic you have expertise in, then research and post valuable content that a specific audience can engage with. For instance, a cardiologist can post the latest news, research findings, and trends in cardiology for an audience with cardiovascular disorders.
  2. Findable: Your content gets found easily on a routine search on a social media channel.
    • To make your content “findable” on a specific social media, use topic-specific hashtags from online hashtag generator websites or add a mixture of healthcare-related hashtags and trending hashtag auto-suggestions specific to each platform (start typing topics with the # symbol in front and let the platform auto-suggest the rest).
  3. Sharable: You’ll know you’re on the right track when your content receives lots of social shares because of its value.

SPECIFIC STRATEGIES FOR SPECIFIC SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS

  • LinkedIn: This formal social media channel boasts lots of active professionals and public figures. Connect with or follow policy makers and regulators who are active on this channel. Cultivate relationships by engaging with their posts or by sending them direct messages, presenting research findings, and discussing healthcare-related issues directly.
  • Twitter: Twitter allows short posts of 280 characters, so your posts must be concise and should contain a link to educative content, preferably on your blog if you have one. Use a mixture of trending and healthcare hashtags to post educative content and to raise awareness about any health-related events or news. When advocating for health policy changes, you can draw the attention of healthcare decision makers on Twitter to your post by tagging or adding their twitter handles (@ [policy maker’s Twitter handle]).

Image 1: It shows a concise educative piece of content I posted on my Twitter handle. Note the use of hashtags.

Oseh sample Tweet 

  • Facebook: You can easily build an online community by creating a Facebook group with the aim of educating group members on specific health topics by posting highly informative and current content. You should post only customized multimedia content like short videos and images to boost post engagement. Keep your Facebook group active by answering questions related to your content and posting interactive and creative content daily (preferably during off-work hours).
  • Instagram: Instagram users engage more with images and short videos than with any other form of content. Share health infographics and post short educative videos for your followers on this social media platform. You can use free online image editing tools to create images and infographics within a few minutes, like the one shown below:

Sample infographic

Source: Author

COMPONENTS OF AN EFFECTIVE HEALTH BLOG FOR HEALTH EDUCATION

In addition to disseminating information through social media, physicians can also use personal blogs to educate the public about health and health policy isssues. Setting up a health blog can be easily accomplished on platforms like blogger or wordpress.com.

Your health blog content should focus on a specific health topic, correct misinformation that people read online, and provide solutions to your target audience’s particular issues.

For your content to show up on Google’s top pages for search queries, your site and content must be search engine optimized (SEO). Creating and updating your blog with fresh and current content using basic SEO checklists will help position your blog to rank well on Google’s search engine results pages for a given search phrase. Remember to add your blog post links to your social media content to drive traffic to your medical blog as well.

To learn more about optimizing your health blog, schedule a few minutes weekly to learn SEO strategies from free online SEO courses on platforms like Coursera.

In Summary

Doctors should leverage social media platforms and a personal health blog to educate and advocate for their target audience online. This can be achieved by using specific features of each social media channel highlighted above and setting up an SEO-optimized blog.


Learn more about the HMS certificate program in Effective Writing for Health Care


References:

 

Dr. Christopher OsehDr. Christopher Ugo Oseh is a medical doctor, SEO copywriter, and a freelance medical writer for small businesses in the health care industry. He also writes search engine optimized posts for health blogs and manages the blogs of busy physicians.

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*OPINIONS EXPRESSED BY OUR GUEST AUTHORS ARE VALUABLE TO US AT LEAN FORWARD, BUT DO NOT REPRESENT OFFICIAL POSITIONS OR STATEMENTS FROM HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL.

One thought on “The 2 Essential Online Channels Physicians Can Use for Public Health Education and Advocacy

  1. Yes, I do agree that Doctors can post updated information while social media in the interest for public health

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