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  • A Digital Footprint Helps Radiologists Reach Patients

    Expert urges radiologists to use every channel available to reach the public. By Lynn Antonopoulos


    January 1, 2018

    Radiologists can become an active force in promoting public understanding of their role in healthcare and in increasing the power of their patient advocacy through both social and traditional media and digital technology.

    Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBE, Chief of Digital Innovation and author of the Seattle Mama Doc Blog for Seattle Children’s Hospital, urged radiologists to “be a willow, not an oak” in the digital landscape, during an RSNA 2017 session.

    The session highlighted the value of leveraging digital communication tools to allow for deeper and more far reaching networks. “It is the opportunity of our time to be more connected to ideas and to each other than ever before,” said Dr. Swanson, adding, “We should use every channel available to tell the public what we know and what we are accomplishing.”

    Today’s patients have access to an overabundance of information related to healthcare, and radiologists and other physicians must compete to provide accurate and relevant information. Referring to data from a recent FACTANK poll conducted through Pew Research Center, Dr. Swanson noted that 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone. Of those polled, one-third admitted to self-diagnosing a medical condition by performing an online search. “Forty percent of the online diagnoses were actually successful,” she said.

    Influential Advocates

    Radiologists can learn from celebrities like talk show hosts, Jenny McCarthy and Jimmy Kimmel, who have, in effect, joined the healthcare arena by using their strong voices, public exposure and digital reach to talk about medical issues personal to them. In 2004, McCarthy created distrust about thimerosol in the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine when she claimed it was responsible for her son’s autism.

    This year, Kimmel told his viewers about his newborn son’s heart defect and used the emotionally charged situation to make a statement about politics and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Dr. Swanson cited these examples to stress their impact and said, “Social media is no longer irrelevant. Translate what you think patients and families should know about, and let them know what care you can provide.”

    Many Methods, One Goal

    Dr. Swanson referred to herself as an early adopter of Facebook, and today she reaches people with her online blog, Facebook and Instagram posts, Tweets and weekly podcasts. Moving beyond a digital footprint, she said physicians should focus on creating a digital fingerprint.

    To get started, she said radiologists should first identify a problem they would like to solve and then find a good channel to solve it. “Use social media to pose an important question,” Dr. Swanson said. “Create a rich profile that defines who you are not only online but in real life. Use pictures and provide links to important journal articles. Socialize what you do to make it more accessible.”

    For hesitant adopters, regardless of comfort level, a well-crafted LinkedIn account is a must, she said.

    Accessibility and transparency are increasingly important as patients demand more from healthcare providers, but Dr. Swanson also recommended following “Elevator Rules” when sharing information online. “Remember everybody is watching, be nice, never be anonymous and never discuss patient-specific information.”

    Daily Bulletin coverage of RSNA 2016 is available at RSNA.org/bulletin.



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