Dr. Mike Sevilla has become social media expert using it to his advantage for many years. In this interview with Dr. Kyle Bradford Jones, Dr. Sevilla shares how he uses social media to be a more effective physician, lessons he’s learned, and the benefits of having a good social media footprint.">

Dec 14, 2015 — Why do physicians and hospitals need to be on social media? Simple. That’s where the patients are. It’s part of how they make health care decisions - even which doctor they ultimately see. Dr. Mike Sevilla has become social media expert using it to his advantage for many years. In this interview with Dr. Kyle Bradford Jones, Dr. Sevilla shares how he uses social media to be a more effective physician, lessons he’s learned, and the benefits of having a good social media footprint.

Interview

Dr. Jones: Social media has become a buzz word in the business world. But why hasn't healthcare been involved in this as other industries? I'm Dr. Kyle Bradford Jones, family physician at the University of Utah School of Medicine and we're talking about this on The Scope.

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Dr. Jones: I'm joined by Dr. Mike Sevilla who is a family physician in Salem, Ohio and who has become an expert on social media advocacy in healthcare. So Dr. Sevilla, social media is a broad term. What do we typically mean by that?

Dr. Sevilla: What I tell people about social media is not only is it a way to share information, but it's also a way to have dialogue with it not only dialogue with our colleagues, but also with patients. I found a great way to open a conversation or try to alleviate some myths that are out there in the media especially on the internet.

Dr. Jones: And you have your own podcast your own website, you're heavily involved in Twitter, Instagram etc. Why are you involved so heavily on so many different platforms?

Dr. Sevilla: I really believe physicians and providers need to be proactive and learn about all these different types of platforms. Now when I talk to physicians and providers, I tell them you don't have to be as crazy as I am and be involved. But you have to be aware of it. That's the reason why I experiment with a lot of things and you've mentioned it already as far as blogs, YouTube videos, Twitter, and Facebook. So it's really important for physicians and providers to be aware that the social media is out there and our patients are using it.

Dr. Jones: Why are doctors so hesitant?

Dr. Sevilla: A number of reasons. First I think it's time. I get that question a lot. Mike, how do you balance a time in doing all of this? I just try to carve out time to do that in the morning to do that. I'm not on all the time.

The next thing I tell physicians is they're concerned about patient privacy, they're concerned about liability, like being sued for something they may or may not say on social media. And a lot of physicians and providers are concerned about payment. If they're going to be giving advice, behind some password protected area they want to see if they can get compensated for that type of information. So those four areas are the things that I've seen are the big stumbling blocks why physicians and providers aren't using social media more.

Dr. Jones: You know in some industries, social media is not new. It's no longer a buzzword. It's just a fact. Whereas in healthcare in general it's a new thing. It's considered a new thing. So many organizations are not involved. Do you have a sense of why more healthcare organizations don't participate?

Dr. Sevilla: I think that they are concerned about the same issues as far as if they put something on their Facebook page or put something out there on Twitter, do they have liability. By putting that is that construed as specific advice for a patient or somebody in the community. I've also seen some industry people say as well that healthcare does not keep on the forefront as far as this type of technology. And we're seeing that a lot and part of what I'm trying to do on the internet is try to educate, not only physicians and providers but also organizations about the many benefits to social media.

Dr. Jones: What are some of the most popular platforms that patients use to try to find information?

Dr. Sevilla: Well unfortunately, the most common platform they use is Google. And when they Google something, sometimes information may not be that accurate. I try to open that dialogue with patients as far as something like that.

For example, vaccines are always a hot button topic when I talk to parents of my patients. And some when Google vaccines you still get wrong information. For example, they say it's still associated with autism which it's not. So I try to push patients to sites like the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic, or even WebMD which has a lot of physician written content that's reviewed and written by physicians. And so that's how I know and patients know that it's accurate.

Dr. Jones: Along those lines there's the concept of search engine optimization, where you so-to-speak, you kind of gamed the system and so when someone Googles something they're going to find your things first. How does social media fit into that?

Dr. Sevilla: Especially when I talk to physicians or providers or even medical students and residents in training now, I tell them they have to make their own social media footprint, which is another name for search engine optimization. And especially if medical students and residents are looking for jobs, a lot of people who are hiring people or looking into medical school that's the first thing they do. They go to the search engines and see and if they're seeing something negative then it may be a negative outcome for them.

So I wouldn't call it gaming the system. But it's kind of taking control of your own social media footprint. And if you look me up you're going to see my website, you're going to see information for my office. And for physicians a lot of things they see as well is a lot of these physician rating sites which may not be the most positive for them. That is the top link and I've told a lot of physicians and providers, I have seen some positive business benefit from my presence on the internet.

I've had a lot of patients come to me and say "Dr. Sevilla we're here because we Googled Salem, Ohio and primary care or family medicine and you came up and that's why we're here. And we saw some of the things you write about and we felt like we've met you already." So those are the major benefits that I tell physicians and providers of why to have a presence on social media.

Dr. Jones: Have you had the opposite where they say "Hey, we read your blog on immunizations or something else and we were a little turned off"?

Dr. Sevilla: Yeah, and actually I get that. I practice in a small town where everybody knows each other. So if I'm at the store, or if I'm in church, or if I'm at a social event they say "Hey, we read this and we agree with this and we disagree with this" and it's not contentious. It's just a way to open dialogue and say "Hey, this is what I think. This is what the scientific research thinks" and then they present their point of view.

It's usually a great way to open up a dialogue with the patients and the community about that. Because if we have physicians and providers who don't give the right information then patients are kind of lost. They're not really sure and confused and they may not get treatments like immunizations like we recommend.

Dr. Jones: So when you think about ten years ago Facebook was brand new. No Twitter. No Instagram. Individual blogs were not all that prevalent and so we've come so far in ten years in this concept in social media. I'm going to ask you the impossible question. Where do you see the future of this going? And how does healthcare play a part in that?

Dr. Sevilla: A lot of trends now is the patient. The patient is really, really driving this. People may have heard the term e-patient. That means a lot of different things. Engaged patient, empowered patient, these are patients that do their own research on their own cancer treatment or on their own chronic illnesses.

And I really see of being the utilization of this digital information more by patients and with families. And that's why I think physicians and providers need to be proactive and not ignore social media because it's going to be something that's not going away. It's not a fad. Not only is it the future but it's the present right now.

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