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How some physicians use YouTube for networking

A practical look at information technology issues and usage

By — Posted June 18, 2012.

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When physicians think of online professional networking, sites such as LinkedIn or Facebook probably come to mind, not YouTube. But a survey finds that many health care professionals, including physicians, are making important professional connections through the video sharing site — even if they never make a video.

A survey of 2,790 health care professionals by AMN Healthcare, a health care work force management and staffing agency, found that 29% use YouTube for professional networking, second to Facebook, which 41% said they used. Twenty-three percent said they use LinkedIn. Respondents could provide more than one response.

Ralph Henderson, president of health care staffing for AMN Healthcare, said he was surprised to see YouTube ranked so high for networking. But he said YouTube has a couple of strengths that can help make it worthwhile for such a task. YouTube is easily searchable, becoming one of the most-used search engines, second only to the one operated by its parent company, Google. Also, videos let people feel more of a connection to someone else, he said.

Social media experts often refer to personal brand building when they talk about the benefits of YouTube and of a physician putting his or her expertise on display on video.

While physicians can gain new patients by branding themselves an expert in a certain area, that same branding also can get the attention of colleagues, who in turn can interact with each other through comments about the video, or by sharing the video in other social networks. Although YouTube provides the initial introductions, experts say the actual person-to-person networking likely is taking place through some other channel. YouTube is just a way to find that person.

“I can tell you 29% of physicians do not post their own videos on YouTube,” said Michael Banks, MD, president of The Doctors Channel, a video-sharing site for physicians that also has a YouTube channel. “But the ones that do make videos are helping to establish themselves as experts in a certain area, he added.

The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, for example, launched a YouTube channel for physicians and other health IT leaders to share success stories and advice with physicians who may be looking for inspiration and guidance as they go through health IT implementations themselves.

Henderson said physicians may be looking for other physicians with particular expertise for connections or patient referrals, and the videos help establish that physician’s expertise. Although most videos posted by physicians are meant for patients, he said, they also can speak to fellow physicians. For example, he saw a recent YouTube video in which a physician described the process of adopting an electronic health record system. The doctor talked about how it made him nervous, but that he now sees the benefits of having an EHR.

“I think in many ways, he was probably touting the fact that his practice is advanced and it helps him market to patients,” Henderson said. “But I thought of it as a tool that might be useful to other physicians nervous about taking that step.”

Physician-to-patient videos are the most common, but there are other physicians who make videos intended solely for a physician audience. Research physicians, especially, have taken to YouTube to post presentations meant to accompany research papers, Henderson said.

“The videos convey things that writing cannot,” he said.

In the past, physicians networked and shared data and research at medical meetings and conferences. Because many are now unable to attend those events due to time and travel constraints, they have turned to video, Henderson said.

Other professional benefits of shared videos come through physicians sharing another physician’s YouTube video via their own social media channels, said Lorrie Thomas Ross, CEO of Web Marketing Therapy, an online marketing agency that includes physicians as clients. YouTube videos are constantly being posted to Facebook pages, linked through Twitter, or posted to blogs, she said. The presence of videos — and the more they are shared — increases a physician’s chances of being found through a search. Some physicians may start with a simple Google search to see what possible connections exist, and physicians with videos rank high in a search.

“Physicians, we have found, like to learn and get educated in an ecosystem that they can trust,” Dr. Banks said.

In addition, physicians may be using YouTube to make connections that potentially could lead to a job or other professional opportunity. But they also may use it to learn about a potential employer. Henderson said many large health care organizations use embedded YouTube videos on their career pages to introduce their facilities and staff to prospective employees. The videos help describe the culture and environment of an organization.

Videos make it possible for viewers to make a personal connection they couldn’t get from text alone, Henderson said.

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