DownloadMTFFTT“Physicians aren’t ‘just’ healers, prescribers or researchers anymore. In the healthcare ecosystem, for all practical purposes, physicians are the media.” This is an interesting aspect of the shifting role of physicians and one that hasn’t gained much notice. The above quote comes from my colleague, Greg Matthews, and the insightful report, Missing the Forest for the Trees: The Change in Physician Roles that the Healthcare Industry Missed.

Like many of us, over time, physicians have transitioned to using the internet as a source of connection – to patients, to each other, to the best-curated and latest information. Even data from 2012 highlights this. A study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found that 61% of physicians scanned social media for medical information at least weekly, while 46% contributed information on at least a weekly basis. A growing number of savvy physicians are taking advantage of the power of social channels to become a trusted resource for patients, traditional journalists and fellow physicians.

The new KOLs are KOIs
In addition to Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs), healthcare organizations need to start paying attention to Key Online Influencers (KOIs). Today, influence can be created by active online participation and relevance utilizing syndication and search. Now doctors are leveraging social media as a platform to become a KOI in addition to (or instead of) the traditional methods of becoming a KOL. Healthcare organizations who embrace this new role of doctors and partner with them will have a marketing advantage. What if you could have a relationship with a physician who is unable or unwilling to see a sales rep?

A key difference As this blog title says, many physicians are playing a role we once relied on broadcast and print media to play, however they are coming at it from a different perspective. Journalists are paid to report the news from an impartial perspective. The majority of these doctors are not being paid, and offer their opinion and experience. These physicians are motivated by growing their reputation, practice or business. It’s important to remember that if you want them to share one of your messages, you need to frame it in a way that will help them to meet their own goals.

I’m currently involved in a project with a client who is successfully approaching these online influencers as members of the media: building relationships and then sharing valuable content that’s relevant to the physician. Learn more about how to approach and find these online influential physicians by downloading the report that inspired this post.

What do you think about this concept? Does it jibe with what you are experiencing?