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Social Media and Online Presence for the Health Care Professional

During the Spring 2017 semester, DELTA Rx partnered with Drake University’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences to host a breakout session entitled “Social Media and Online Presence for the Health Professional” during the annual Pharmacy and Health Sciences Day. The session consisted of a panel of local pharmacy professionals and entrepreneurs who discussed the role of social media in networking and self-branding in health care. Key segments of the session and additional comments have been provided with input from one of the panelists, Tony Guerra, PharmD.

In a rapidly changing health care environment, social media has become a prominent platform for news, education, and networking. For young professionals, it can be difficult to determine how to enter how to enter the online conversation and distinguish oneself as a professional leader. How does one best connect with clients, peers, and mentors? How does one effectively deliver the message patients need to hear and distinguish their voice amidst all the other voices?

Equipping practitioners and students with the tools to optimize their online presence for professional and entrepreneurial advancement begins with understanding the opportunity that exists and recognizing the relational creativity it requires.

How is social media currently used for health promotion or health business marketing in the profession of pharmacy?

Social media is generally a misunderstood and missed opportunity as something that is often delegated to a person or machine. First, social media is social; it is not advertising. Putting out information about a pharmacy or service through social media channels is advertising. A message goes out, and the patient may or may not get it. It could be used as a form to directly connect with patients, but because of HIPAA rules, a patient can’t tweet or message the pharmacist and receive a reply back on a public board. However, a pharmacy can write a blog post without patient information about the issue and then later let the patient know it’s there through a secure channel.

What are the benefits of using social media and online tools as a health care practitioner or entrepreneur in today’s environment?

You want to go to where your customers are. Customers are on social media, and influencer marketing is on the rise. That is, certain people in social media command the attention of large groups of people. Once a pharmacy or pharmacist establishes himself or herself as an expert in an area, the followers can share the message about that person’s expertise driving business to them. If you’re looking to build a voice and platform, following and referrals on social media can be synergistic for delivering your message and creating a community.

What are the best strategies to develop an online presence and connect with an audience?

You are simply looking for people that care about what you care about. The best way to start connecting is through hashtags or groups that are meaningful to you. For example, #LDCHAT is a weekly conversation about learning disorders, and #HCLDR is a weekly meetup of health care leaders. During these meetings, you find those people that resonate with your cause. There is a focus on gaining followers and content drives followers to you.

What are the do’s and don’ts of social media?
The do’s and don’ts really come from courtesy and legal liability. Social media is highly visible, so I only post the positive. The key is to find one social media platform that you like the best and then become very good at it. The opportunities for social media in pharmacy moving forward are unlimited.

Do you have a specific “success story to share”?

I put up educational content on my TonyPharmD YouTube channel and often get messages that say, “now I get it,” or “thank you for putting this content up,” and that’s very satisfying. While I focus on helping health practitioner students, knowing that they understand their material better means better care for their patients.

Tony Guerra, PharmD, is chair, instructor, and pre-pharmacy advisor at Des Moines Area Community College's Pharmacy Technician program and Pharmacy Podcast Network Co-Host. He's Tony_PharmD on Twitter and TonyPharmD on YouTube providing Top 200 drugs and pronunciation help to over 4,500 followers with over 1 million views. His two audiobooks Memorizing Pharmacology: A Relaxed Approach and How to Pronounce Drug Names: A Visual Approach to Preventing Medication Errors are Amazon bestsellers.