AAFP Offers Social Media Tips for Physicians

The American Academy of Family Physicians has published guidelines for physicians who wish to become more active on social media.

The AAFP discusses how physicians can benefit from social media as both sources of content and platforms for dissemination of information:

  • Many physicians have turned to social media to help them keep up with new information they need to know to provide quality care. One recent study found that more than 70 percent of primary care physicians and oncologists use social media at least once a month to explore or contribute health information. Social media can help physicians stay up to date on news that may affect their patients or prompt patient questions.
  • Social media can enhance professional networking efforts.
  • Social media tools such as blogs, social network sites (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc), and video sites (Youtube, Vimeo and Vine) give physicians a platform to express their views on health care-related topics, share general clinical or practice information (e.g., flu shot availability), and educate their patients and their community at large.

Guidelines are also provided regarding areas relating to becoming active on social media, professionalism, policies and examining time commitment and personal exposure.


“While the AAFP recommends that physicians explore the use of social media, you must decide whether you want to go beyond exploration, basing your decision on your own circumstances and the value you find in social media for yourself, your patients, and your community,” according to the 15 page report.


The benefit from social media use can out-weight the cost.


For “cash-only” practices and practices with a significant percentage of direct-pay patients, the additional time needed to build the practice’s social media presence represents an overhead cost that the practice may be able to pass on. Not so for physicians paid on a fee-for-service basis by third-party payers. There is no CPT code for time spent on social media.


That does not mean that the use of social media offers no financial benefit. While consumers searching for a new physician typically rely on personal recommendations and on the list of physicians in their health insurance network, social media marketing can help establish enhance a physician’s reputation and visibility online. A strong social media presence can benefit the practice as a form of word-of-mouth advertising. In addition, a vibrant online community helps keep patients engaged and informed, perhaps benefitting patient retention.


Go here to read the full guidelines.