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How Are Digital Opinion Leaders Like Steven Chen MD Using Social Media?

If you don’t have an active Twitter account, I highly recommend you get one. Your first (or next) follow should be Steven Chen MD (@DrStevenTChen), the dermatologist and internist known for “#tweetorials,” long threads that explore the latest clinical findings from his practice areas.

Dr. Chen’s #tweetorials provide valuable medical education to both clinicians and the general public. For example, in this April 1, 2020 #tweetorial, Dr. Chen discussed the causes and treatments of papulosquamous disorders.

I also recommend you follow Michael Blaiss MD (@wheezemd), Executive Medical Director of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Dr. Blaiss tweets on all things allergy, from replying to surprising data to providing an allergist’s perspective on the ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialization and helping his peers think through the implications of new healthcare regulations. For example, in this tweet from June 3, 2020, Dr. Blaiss raises a question that allergists and their patients both probably want answered: “Are allergy shots worth it?”

What makes these two examples remarkable is not simply expertise, but follower count. At the time of this writing, Dr. Chen has 5,788 followers. Dr. Blaiss has 3,786. Both of their Twitter audiences include other healthcare practitioners (HCPs) in their respective practice areas.

While Dr. Chen is an HCP with a public profile, establishing him as a potential digital opinion leader (DOL), Dr. Blaiss is an established key opinion leader (KOL) with both a strong online presence and relationships with industry partners.

Prior to and outside of social media, how have doctors typically gotten information from one another? Through reading journals, attending conferences, and receiving additional education at congresses and symposiums. Much of a doctor’s life is continuous learning, and social media offers a different delivery mechanism for that education. Social media is engaging. It’s conversational. It’s visual. It’s collaborative. For example, if you look at Dr. Chen’s Twitter timeline, you’ll see follower surveys, anonymized patient photos, and lively discussions between internists and dermatologists in the replies. That’s much more interactive than a paper, or even watching a presentation on stage.

From the physician’s perspective, there are no costs to providing (or receiving) supplemental medical education on social media. Nor are there fees to follow a user’s public account. Doctors on social media are able to reach untold thousands of people with a few tweets, posts, or status updates. That’s why I highly encourage all HCPs to engage on social media, even if they never have before. It’s worth it for the simple fact that your presence ultimately leads to better patient outcomes.

Would you like expert guidance to leverage social media for insights generation and KOL engagement? Feel free to contact Acceleration Point today.

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