My Opinion Social Media and Health

Annual AAO Meeting and Young Ophthalmologists

Randall Wong, M.D., presents to Young Ophthalmologists, AAO 2013I just returned from New Orleans.  The American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2013, just finished.  Upwards of 25,000 people attended this largest “eye” meeting in the world.

Again, I went to teach about the merits of utilizing a website (like this) and social media to improve communications with patients and to develop a modern approach to marketing.

Amy and I founded Medical Marketing Enterprises, LLC 3 years ago to formally introduce these concepts to professional organizations.

Young Ophthalmologists: The #YoProgam, AAO 2013

The Young Ophthalmologists is a group within the American Academy of Ophthalmology.  To be a member, you must be  in training (resident or fellow), belong to the AAO, or be in your first five years of practice.

During my presentations on SEO and Social Media, I emphasized the need for young professionals to start a website immediately, understand the merits of adopting transparency (both personal and as a business) and to respond the wants and needs of modern patients.

To other groups, I instructed on the basics of starting a website and the rudiments of content marketing…the only way to rank a website.

Start a Website Immediately

One of the basics of SEO, search engine optimization, is that your website must be time tested and trusted.  Not only must your content be important, but the age of the URL (the is very important to search engines such as Google.  Google puts little “trust” in websites less than a year old (too many black hat sites come and go).

Therefore, a young ophthalmologist in training will fare better if starting a website now versus waiting until he/she obtains the first job.  Simply writing periodically to keep the website “fresh” will slowly build an online audience.

After a couple of years, a significant online following may develop which is portable and therefore, a ready made marketing force.  Think of searching for a job coming with your own marketing!


Doctors are not used to being transparent.  In this modern age, patients (you) demand their physicians have personal transparency and operate transparent medical practices.

Personal transparency means that a person demonstrates who they are versus what they are.  In the case of physicians, it is vital for doctors to distinguish ourselves by who we are as a person and not what we are as professionals.  Those physicians who are able to best convey human elements of themselves (e.g. father of five, hockey manager, Dunkin’ Donuts, loves labradors and tennis) will be far more successful in engaging patient than their counterparts.

Too common are physicians who attempt to distinguish themselves by describing memberships in elite societies, being products of special programs and having interests in research in highly esoteric diseases…none of this is relevant to the typical patient.

Before making a purchasing decision, going to the movies or eating at a restaurant, many of us rely on the reviews.  Why wouldn’t the same hold true for selecting a doctor?

Every other small business operates transparently.  The public is now demanding that we (doctors), too, operate transparently.  Review sites such as Yelp and Angie’s List are powerful statements about a doctors ability to run a small business.  Review sites are abundant because they are vital to our ability to make decisions.

While many doctors fear online reviews, they are here to stay.

What Does This Mean?

In short, the digital age has given our patients a voice.  Modern patients, irrespective of age, want to find transparency in their docs.  I think this is the new bedside manner.  Patients also expect to find cogent reviews about practices who care how they run their office…as a business.

Communication is vital to a doctor-patient relationship.  Long gone is the era of scarcity marketing where the doctor was able to leverage his knowledge about health.

Patients now have multiple resources to learn about their health, not solely health professionals, and are now demanding their doctors be knowledgeable, transparent and willing to engage digitally!


My Opinion Social Media and Health

Back from the AAO

Amy and I got back from Orlando, last week.  We attended the American Academy of Ophthalmology annual meeting, the world’s largest gathering of ophthalmologists and those associated with our “industry.”  It’s our huge trade show.  For us, we got some national exposure for our new company.

Telling a Story

You may remember that we received a nice endorsement from the AAO earlier in the year.  The endorsement came in the form of acceptance of our lectures (4) and and invitation to address young doctors about marketing.

In short, we told everyone about what we are doing here at

We told the story of how we started, how it has benefited my practice (patients arrive internationally and nationally), how we use the site to educate patients (real and virtual) and it has become a valuable tool in developing relationships with my patients and my “tribe” (those that follow this site…um, that means you!).

Teaching More than SEO and Social Media

While the courses topics ranged from choosing a URL to implementing social media via a blog, we were advocating some very simple points;

1.  If You Have No Website, You Don’t Exist: Patients have become empowered by the Internet.  Long gone are the days where a patient will blindly take the “referral” of one physician from another.  Today, patients want to select their doctors based on their own criteria.  The easiest way to search is to use Google, but you (my readers) know this.  If a doctor has been recommended, but a website can not be found (or is old and stale), patients will never call to make an appointment.

2.  Doctors need Transparency: There are two types of transparency that physicians must display, personal and business.  Personal transparency means that a doctor must display some attributes of being human.  This personal transparency means that doctors should share a bit about their personal side to which patients (as other humans) can relate.  Patients want to relate to their doctors.

As an example, a doctor listing his/her hobbies is much more engaging than listing the elite academic achievements to which noone else can relate (even other doctors).

Every other business in every other industry, except medicine, opens itself to public criticism and evaluation.  Movies, books, restaurants all go under review of the public.  Doctors must get used to the notion of operating this type of transparent business.

3.  Serving the Public Good. The only way a medical practice can use a website as an effective marketing tool is to publish credible health information.  While over 80% of the public turns to the Internet first for health related questions, there is a paucity of reliable information (you know this, too!).

If every doctor were to publish/write on their own sites, they would get the rankings they want …and the public would get the answers they need.  Best of all, this means that the quality of health information available to the public improves.

What Does This Mean? We got validated.  We met so many doctors trying to learn how to engage the Internet, to make their websites useful and to learn how to build relationships.  We were appreciated and really became to feel that we are leading a movement…..maybe we are.








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Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is my 51st birthday.  Every once in a while, my birthday falls on a holiday (I was born on Labor Day).  Thus, I have my Dunkin Donuts’ coffee, don’t have to cook and get the kids off to school and the office is closed!

I can really do whatever I want….today.

My purpose in writing today was to post something nonclinical and personal.  Something “transparent.”

The Importance of Transparency

I have learned many things over the past 3 years since starting this blog, and now a formal business.  The biggest lesson learned is that transparency is essential to be successful as a professional and a leader.

For example, the difference between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates is NOT Macs vs. PC.  The difference is one is transparent whereas the other is not.

Steve Jobs is willing to be transparent.  We, the public, know much more about Steve’s personal life than we do Gates.  Think about all you know about Steve Jobs.  Now think about all you know about Bill Gates.

One guy has made fanatical contributions to the world and is ill.  The other guy is just ridiculously rich.

That explains that funny feeling you got a few weeks ago when Steve Jobs resigned.

You won’t feel the same with Gates.  No transparency.

My Personal Stories Get the Most “Hits”

I now exceed over 6500 unique visits (per 30 days) on this blog.  That’s an exceptional number considering that I use this for educational purposes.

My most popular articles are those that are personal; Grant going to college, losing Keno, etc.  It’s noteworthy, yet compelling.  These are articles that bring you into my life.  These are articles that show that I, too, am a human and not just a overzealous doc that likes to blog.

Not every physician is willing to show this degree of transparency, but it’s the key to a physician’s success online (and btw, every doctor needs to be online).  Mark my words.

Doctors Should Be Transparent

Unfortunately, doctors are not normally transparent.  In fact we do many things to build up a wall to keep us insulated;  we wear white coats, a uniform to “distinguish” us, place nonsensical awards and diplomas on our office walls to which patients can NOT relate (to make matters worse, most are in Latin), write short bios of ourselves that not even other doctors can understand the significance, etc.  Worst of all, when we meet with patients, we rarely can afford a true dialogue, but instead, advise about your illness via a monologue (“Let me tell you how to fix your problem and get well.”)

Being transparent shows that behind the white coat and the rest of the wall…we are actually human.  Docs shouldn’t live in an ivory tower.

I don’t know why docs don’t like to show they are human, it’s like they are afraid to show they are, well…normal.

The AAO and My Message

I have been invited to address 200 “young ophthalmologists” at the American Academy of Ophthalmology meeting next month.  It’s a huge honor and terrific endorsement for our company.

I’ve been tasked with talking about “marketing.”  My main message will be that a successful doctor is one that understands the needs of his or her patients.  Social media is a compelling statement that patients want their doctors to be online and those that show some degree of transparency will be the most successful.  In fact, I’ll be recommending to this elite group of docs that if they are thinking about aligning with a practice without a web page…move on.  That’s a practice that has it’s head in the sand.

There are still docs out there that believe in the “build it and they will come” approach to attracting patients.  Trying over and over again to impress patients with their smarts and intellect…but patients already know docs are smart.  We went to med school, right?

What’s missing is transparency.  Docs need to show they are human.


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