My Opinion Social Media and Health

This Doctor's View on Social Media and Medicine

Randall Wong, M.D., Social media for medicine.I’m going to Chicago this weekend to talk about Social Media and medicine!

The American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS) has its annual meeting this year in Chicago.  Ophthalmology Management, an ophthalmology business development company, and Allergan are hosting a “roundtable” discussion on the use of social media in ophthalmology.

Allergan has a business development division whose experts provide guidance to medical practices.  I have been invited to participate and will be sharing what I have learned from you and this blog.

Every Website Must Be a Blog

Any modern website should be a blog.  There is no reason to use the old-fashioned so-called “HTML generators” (e.g. Microsoft FrontPage, Dreamweaver).  Blogging “software” has the same versatility as the older programs, but blogs have the unique ability to allow the reader (you) to leave a comment at the end of each article.

The ability to “comment” is the single reason blogs have become so powerful.  The “comment” allows the reader to engage by asking a question or sharing some experience.

Blogs, therefore, are the purest form of social media.

Every Website Must Offer Value….and for Free!

If you have no value, you can not generate traffic…aka interest in your website.  Simply Tweeting or posting on Facebook about your website will do nothing if you do not have valuable content.  And, oh yes, your content must be refreshed regularly (ever go to a website that hasn’t been changed in a while?).

The value of this website is my ability, as an authority on retinal diseases, to share my knowledge of retinal diseases.  My articles help educate my patients and those non-patients surfing and looking for answers to their health related questions.

Giving value for free is also integral to developing a following.  “Free” generates trust.  Trust builds relationships.

“Comments” Attract More “Comments”

I try to answer every comment left on this website.  By doing so, it invites future readers to leave a comment.

There are several aspects of the “comment” that are powerful.  Comments help engage other readers who have the same problem.  While reading one of my articles might attract your attention, identifying with another reader who shares the same problem is the most engaging.

My participation in this “conversation” demonstrates a willingness to engage my patients, gives me the opportunity to explain my practice philosophy and gives you a sense of my “bedside manner.”  This “transparency” is the most compelling aspect of my blog.

Scarcity Marketing and Medicine

Scarcity Marketing says that if I own the only restaurant in town, I don’t have to have the best food or the best service.

The Internet provides information (this website, for example).  Patients are now more knowledgeable about their own health conditions, ergo, the value of the doctor has decreased.  Knowledge has empowered patients to be more selective in their choice of caretakers.  Doctors can no longer use knowledge to leverage their own value.

Physicians of today must learn how to be transparent, both as a person and as a business owner, to survive in this new era of social media.  The digital age and social media are making modern medicine a consumer driven market!

Would you agree?






My Opinion Social Media and Health

Patients Abuse the Internet

Most of the time I write about information about regarding macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.  As many of you remember, I am very interested in persuading more docs to do the same, that is, provide credible health information on the Internet.

An article in Reuter’s claims that over 50% of Americans turned to the Internet for health information last year.  Way to go!  At the same time, fewer than 5% ever bothered to email their own doctor.

As more and more people are turning to the Internet for health information, I am hopeful more and more doctors will meet you there by providing solid, credible health information.

Docs are resistant to using the Internet.  There are misgivings at several layers.  Basically, docs don’t want to give away their expertise and are afraid of getting sued by offering medical advice that may be… well, wrong.  But they don’t have to give away advice as patients are looking for information…not opinion.

The difference between information and advice is that information is factual.  Advice is an opinion.   Doctors get information and advice mixed up.  I believe patients search the Internet for health information for the same reason we want to know about world news…they just want to know.  They want information about a disease or sickness.

People crave information.  The single biggest activity that occurs everyday on the Internet is “search.”  People are constantly searching, or “Googling,” for information.  But I don’t think patients are looking for advice.

Clinical judgment is what keeps doctors special.  Clinical judgment arises as a result of melding together facts with patient experience.  I support doctors publishing facts.  Clinical judgment entails an exam that can NOT be facilitated over the Internet…ergo, there should be nothing to fear.

Clinical judgment does not exist on the Internet, it will always be what keeps a doctor “unique.”

What Does This Mean? This means that doctors, and other health authorities, really should feel free to publish credible health information.  Information does not mean you are giving advice, opinion or treatment.  There really aren’t any liability issues.

From a public health perspective, the more good information on the web, the more likely someone will seek medical attention.

This web site is intended to be a single source of information about diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration.  There should be more like it.  There is no abuse.


Randall V. Wong, M.D.

Ophthalmologist, Retina Specialist
Fairfax, Virginia

My Opinion Social Media and Health

MLK Had a Vision…RetinaEyeDoctor Has an…Idea

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  Coincidentally, it is also my 150th post to my web site,

Dr. King had a wonderful dream.  He had a specific vision.  He shared his inspirations.  In honor of this day, I share my hope of doctors, patients, healthcare…and the internet.  He was an orator.  I blog.

I started 9 months ago.  I now reach over 1000 views/month.  I have achieved a Google  page ranking of “2.”  In terms of blog ranking, I have climbed from number 13,746,224 to now, 6,667,254 (an increase in almost 50%).  My blogging has strengthened my web presence.

In short, I am getting results.  I am getting closer to my…hope.

Patient Education –  The immediate advantage to creating a web site, authored by a physician, is the power of authority and credibility.  Creating this site has provided you with a credible source of information about diabetic eye disease and macular degeneration.  It is written by me, a retina specialist.  By definition, I am an authority on this stuff.  Who better?  We need more docs to do the same.

Equality – With credibility comes equal access.  Access to information.  Accurate information about health should be free and available, to everyone.  I am not equating this to free healthcare, because I don’t believe that’s possible right now.  I am just focusing on information. With technology, the web and social media, we now have the ability to quickly, easily and cheaply disseminate information.  It costs no more to provide information via the internet to a few or to thousands.

Doctors’ Duty – My hope is that through improvements in patient education, via similar web pages/social media, that more health providers, especially physicians, embrace the internet.  It is our (docs/health care providers) social obligation to improve the quality of information available to our patients.

Doctors have the ability to empower the public, by providing information, to participate in their own health.  This can only start with education, but quality education.  Information that is free of bias, and information that is accurate.  It’d be really easy, docs just have to publish what we preach every day in the office.  Why is good information so hard to obtain?

Social Media means many, many things, but there are a few immediate applications of “social media.”  By the way, examples of social media include Facebook, Twitter and LinkeIn.  Practically speaking, it is a means to share information, hopefully quality information, via social networks.  The format can be a web page (text), video (YouTube), slide shows ( allows you to upload Power Point presentations) or audio (podcasts).

As providers, docs have a variety of ways to participate and educate.  For instance, perhaps a web page isn’t ideal, how about a Power Point presentation?

Social Media empowers patients/public to become active participants of the internet.  In terms of spreading ideas/information, social media allows one person to tell many others, quickly and in real time.  For instance, I use Twitter daily to broadcast my latest post.  The “ReTweet” button on each article is an easy way any reader can share the article with others.  If John Q. Public wants to share a great web site on, er, diabetic eye disease and macular degeneration, it is now easy to share via social media.

On my own page, the quality illustrations have come from  Mark Erickson, a very  gifted, medical illustrator, and I formed a relationship via Twitter.

Empowering the Public on Healthcare. Web site, i.e. blogs, have become interactive.  When docs start participating, the “ivory tower” will start to erode.  Information becomes less “priveleged.”  Interactivity allows patients to ask questions, on their time, through a media which is convenient and comfortable for them; the Internet.  It allows them to understand.

In the end, everyone may benefit.

Dr. King had a dream.  I, humbly, have an idea.


Randall V. Wong, M.D.
Ophthalmologist, Retina Specialist
Fairfax Virginia

How I Practice My Opinion Social Media and Health

Social Media: Finding Credible Info On the Internet

Why do you believe everything on the Internet?

“I Read it on the Internet” Most of what I read on the internet, regarding health information, is bunk.  Whether it is advice on diets, exercises, medical treatments, etc., most is off target, non-factual and opinionated and biased. People are likely to believe what we read on the internet as gospel because……….well, it is on the internet!  As if the internet is the ultimate stamp of “authority.”

Lack of Credibility Most web sites, especially health,  have no credibility whatsoever.  There is no review system in place to filter information.  In time, this will come, but for now, read carefully.  Read and look for sites that are written by authorities.  In my case, the content of my web site should be more credible than others.  I am a physician.  I am a retina specialist.  This makes me an authority on retinal diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration and retinal detachments.

True vs. Perceived Authority True authorities are hard to come by, especially on the internet.  The world’s most famous authority on “snipes,” isn’t necessarily the authority on the internet.   The “perceived” authority will be found on the internet.  The “perceived” authority is the person who takes the time to publish about “snipes,” and this may even include work by the true authority.

In other words, the person that publishes the most about a topic is more likely to be the perceived authority and is easily found with you “Google” a topic, whereas the true authority may lie dormant and be lost on the internet.

It’s Easy to Get On The Internet It is so easy, I’ve done it.  It is easy to create a web page or blog.  Simple software is available for free.  Sophisticated software is nominal.  I use a company to “host” my web sites.  Overall, it costs less than 10 dollars a month.  My point is that it is easy and cheap. You basically just need a computer.

What Does This Mean? It does not mean that everything you read is bad information.  Most of the health information on sites like WebMD and NIH is awesome and factual.  These authorities have authored the content on the web pages.  Be cautious about the source if you are not familiar with them.  They are, however, often very hard to read.  I find the information is too broad and not necessarily targeted to their readers.

  • Beware of Selling Beware of web sites that seem to promote health information and are trying to sell you something.  For example, health supplements such as vitamins.  I believe there is a conflict of interest.  On my sites, I may eventually be selling something, but I promise it won’t compromise the credibility of what you read on my site.  For instance, I won’t be selling “eye vitamins.”
  • Look for the “contact” information. If it is hard to find the author, or owner, of the web site, then I’d be suspect of the information.
  • Look for Credible Authorities. For instance, I’d recommend looking for medical sites written by ………….. doctors.  As you move away from the doctors, the authority figures have less clout, but it is a good place to start.
  • The Internet is NOT a Doctor. You should still see a doctor.  Use the internet to gain information and learn.  Use the internet to ask your doctor better questions.  The internet is an awesome place for information.  You just have to figure out what to believe!
  • Tell Your Doctor! – Part of my charge is to create credible sources of information on the internet.  By using our innate authority as physicians, I am pleading that more and more docs create sites like  There are huge implications for my disseminating factual health information regarding diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration.
  • Social Media If you find a site you like, comment, tell others, tell your friends and even your own doctors!  You may even consider using social media to share your good news!


Randall V. Wong, M.D.
Ophthalmologist, Retina Specialist
Fairfax, Virginia

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