A common problem often asked is how to deal with medical questions asked on the Internet; on a website, Facebook or other social media platform, or email.
It is my practice to answer almost any question posed to me regardless of the platform on which it is asked. I treat all questions the same, regardless if they are generated from Youtube, my blog or social media.
Responding to questions is an important step to engaging your next potential patient, it encourages others to ask questions and makes you, the doctor, more transparent.
Responding is vital.
Don’t Practice Medicine over the Internet!
It has been my experience that most questions are generated from “patients” who are seeking information. Therefore, our answers should be for educational purposes only. We, as doctors, are serving as authorities or experts, when responding to online questions.
In doing so, refrain from giving medical advice and never make a medical diagnosis. In other words, don’t practice medicine over the Internet.
As I stated in our podcast episode, unless you are a psychiatrist, making a diagnosis (and therefore giving medical advice) is pretty difficult without the ability to perform a physical examination.
When you answer, take the point of view of an expert and craft a response that will help educate your inquisitive follower. Be the teacher.
Medical Answers are Valued Resources
Your answers to their questions should serve as an informational resource. This can lead to more in depth learning that they can have with their own personal physician. Also, by responding, you are automatically standing above your colleagues as most doctors won’t take the time or make the effort.
Your answers can also serve as a valuable reference for further learning. As a medical expert, your answers carry much more credibility than other informational sources created from lesser experts. This creates tremendous value for your follower.
What Can You Do?
Use online questions as an opportunity to educate, inform and engage.
As an example, as an ophthalmologist, I often get question such as, “What can I do about these bothersome floaters I’ve had for several years?”
My response would be, “Acute onset of floaters might be related to a tear in the retina which could form a retinal detachment. Retinal detachments are potentially blinding. Floaters can be caused by inflammation, bleeding or a retinal tear. Make sure your doctor is aware…”
Remember…Don’t Practice Medicine Over the Internet