Last week I was lucky enough to attend the Third Annual Health Care Social Media Summit at Mayo Clinic. This gave me the opportunity to finally meet Howard Luks, MD in person. It was great to spend time trading ideas and thoughts as the world continues to change as technology and social media impact all our lives. I thought it would be fitting he be the next in line for my Expert Interview Series.
Bio: Howard is a compassionate, caring, patient centric, conservative, yet technologically savvy orthopedic surgeon. He remains very active in the digital, social media, healthcare space to promote the creation of a healthcare system that levels the playing field for everyone—by facilitating producing meaningful communication and access to relevant content.
Q: So tell me a bit about your background. How did you find yourself dealing with social media and new technologies on a regular basis?
I completed my formal training as a sports medicine specialist in orthopedic surgery in New York City in 1997. Since then I have acted as the Chief of Sports Medicine and Arthroscopy at New York Medical College. I have always been an early adopter of digital technology. Sometimes I’ll simply use a device or platform for a week and realize that it has no meaningful use for me. Then there is the case of social media and the new opportunities and means of communications that it presents us with.
Humans are innately social, health the social – – – healthcare is not social —. It became very clear to me, very early on in the emergence of many of the social media platforms as I started to delve into their potential use at improving my ability to not only communicate with my patients, but perhaps reach and empower people around the globe, in general. I am by nature a very social person. There is no doubt that I would have been an active user of Twitter and Facebook— regardless of whether or not I felt there was a healthcare application. 800 million people simply can’t be wrong. Companies are no longer handing out e-mails for some employees. Micro-blogging platforms to facilitate two-way communications is becoming the norm. This is obviously the new means of communication that society has chosen. Why should healthcare be any different? As the obvious opportunities to reach a broader base and to educate the public about various issues in healthcare and specifically in orthopedic surgery, I became much more focused with regards to how I utilize my time available to interact on the various social media platforms. As I started to notice how well my activity online was received — It simply pushed me harder to hone my online skills, simplify my message, and promote the use of social media in healthcare with the hope that many of my colleagues would join me online and assist patients in leveling the playing field and simplify an otherwise convoluted, complex, and frequently scary healthcare system.
Q: In your field what has been the biggest win for social media and new technologies?
In the field of orthopedic surgery, clearly the biggest win for social media and new technologies is simply the fact that you are able to reach such a vast audience and supply them with actionable, meaningful, and hopefully evidence-based content to assist them in learning far more about their disease process then most of the commercialized nonsense that exists through a typical Google search.
As a full-time practicing orthopedic surgeon, utilizing social media has led to many, many advantages from both a personal and professional perspective. Any patient who has been to my website prior to their initial interaction with me in the office is immediately far more comfortable because they have seen a number of my short videos online and they are already very relaxed and this allows the office visit to begin in a much more effective and efficient manner. Not only that, most of these patients have also read through a discussion about how I’m going to frame our discussion and they have been given some direction as to try and how to frame their thoughts. They clearly understand the information that I would like to learn from them and therefore they are able to articulate this is a very clear and concise manner, which again, simplifies and streamlines a typical office visit. Lastly, many of the patients who have read through the treatment possibilities on my website already know what I might say. They have also had time write down a number of questions prior to arriving in my office. If you take all of these relative advantages together. This creates a true, meaningful return on investment simply because the office visit is now far more effective, far more efficient, the patient is better educated, and this usually takes place in a shorter timeframe than an office visit with a patient who has not seen my website or any of the other content I have placed in the cloud.
Q: As a follow up what is the next hurdle?
There are a number of hurdles which exist. From a professional perspective, especially I would like to see a number of my colleagues engage, and our professional associations to actively promote social media or digital activities— and formulate not only advisory, but practical social media guideline strategies. Personally, as part of my outreach. I receive a number of e-mails from patients from both around the United States, as well as around the world looking for assistance, as well as looking for some further follow-up on something they may have read on my website or in my blog posts. Given the laws that exist in the United States, I am not able to answer most of these e-mails or blog post responses in a very direct meaningful way. So, therefore, a big hurdle we need to overcome is that the privacy laws and many of the laws that govern our ability to practice in other states, need to change to accommodate these new modes of communication and outreach – – – while still maintaining a patient’s right to privacy.
A HUGE hurdle that exists for many is the relative lack of tactical guidance. There are a number of physicians joining the stream on Twitter, Facebook, Posterous, and WordPress — yet they are nervous, and frequently unsure about how to actually reach out to their patients or a wider audience. These lurkers, or newly engaged physicians and healthcare providers need simple how-to guidance. They need direction by those of us who have been active in the space for quite a while and understand how to articulate the value propositions that exist, and how to provide simple next steps or advice on navigating many of the potholes and pitfalls that exist in sharing healthcare information online.
Q: A year from now how do you hope social media has changed your job?
Like many of my other colleagues who are very active in the social media space, we are all trying to figure out what the next year or two, or more will bring. Social media has changed my life considerably. Both personally and professionally. It has brought forth opportunities, and helped foster relationships that simply would not have been possible if I was not active within the digital space. Along with that came many professional relationships that I’ve established with a number of companies and startups in healthcare ventures. It is very exciting to work with these talented, passionate innovators who are seeking to apply their skills in healthcare, in the hope of bringing the healthcare system well into the 21st century from a technological standpoint.
I absolutely love treating patients. I can receive no better satisfaction than to have a patient say “thank you” for restoring their ability to walk – – – there is no amount of monetary compensation that will ever replace that. For that reason, regardless of how active I become in assisting many startups, platforms or device manufacturers, I will always remain a practicing orthopedist – – – I will simply have to limit the number of hours which I do so.
Q: Finally, what is your favorite new app or device?
Clearly my favorite device is my iPad. That assumes that I’m able to get it away from my children and actually use it when I’m home. 🙂 At work, I utilize my iPad all day. I utilize it to show patients videos, pictures, blog posts, and allow them to search through my website while they may be waiting or contemplating what their next step may be in a treatment algorithm I have just reviewed with them. Literally, every week I am finding a new application that is of benefit to me, my office, my staff, and my patients. One of my favorite applications currently is registerpatient.com. This is a phenomenal platform that can be layered onto an existing practices website and enable a practice to be able to communicate digitally with their patients, enable the patient to schedule their appointments online, and enable a portal for a patient to verify the data that I have collected about them, or the notes that I have dictated about them. All of this, comes as an extremely reasonable price, with a very clear, easy to recognize return on investment. I must add that Evernote is also one of my favorite all time applications— along with Flipboard.