Why Physicians Don’t Use LinkedIn

June 3, 2010

Images Where are the doctors on LinkedIn? If you spend any time there you’ll find that we’re few and far between. Sure there are the entrepreneurs, the physician executives and the social wonks, but not many practicing physicians.

Physicians are hyperlocal. Most MDs live and work in relatively small, geographically defined locations. Their success is sustained through word of mouth and the cultivation of a limited number of personal relationships. The average practicing physician has no need to sell himself beyond his local market. The depth of their bio is irrelevant to their local success.

Physicians are static. Once established physicians aren’t likely to pick up and move as other professionals might need to do. Many physicians spend their careers in a couple of locations. Hustling for the next level isn’t how doctors think.

Physicians are relatively similar in their skill sets (but not in their skill). For the most part what a pediatrician does in The Woodlands, Texas is pretty close to what a pediatrician does in Seattle. Sure some do circumcisions, some don’t. A little extra training in this or that perhaps. But by and large the job and its training is predictable. Seeing that a physician has 4 years of medical school and 3 years of residency under her belt isn’t likely to change anything. And for the average hospital or practice hiring, being Harvard trained doesn’t necessarily confer an advantage.

Patients don’t care. I’ve yet to treat a child who’s parent made a decision to visit me based on the merits of my CV. Patient decisions regarding providers are driven by word of mouth/web and individual references, not the appearance of a resume or the fluency of a bio. I can hear the echos of the e-patients now suggesting that knowledge is power. Sure, and having a consistent record of a physicians training and background might have some value. But all this information was widely available well before LinkedIn was ever popularized.

While LinkedIn is effective at helping you define and position yourself in a noisy world, the average physician in middle America doesn’t need the definition that LinkedIn provides.

What do you think?

Check out my corresponding Cinchcast, Why Physicians Don’t Use LinkedIn


Adam Nash June 4, 2010 at 2:42 am

I would assume that having public recommendations from people that you are connected to on LinkedIn would be a huge advantage to a physician. Many people choose their doctors based on referrals and recommendations from people they know.

A LinkedIn recommendation has to first be approved by the doctor, but then is broadcast to all of the connections of the person who made the recommendation.

In addition, one of the most powerful capabilities of LinkedIn is it's search engine, which is based on your connections. By adding people you know & trust professionally, you gain the ability to effectively look up anyone or any organization, and find the "best" path in. Perfect if you are looking to find someone to talk to about a new company, product, service, or group.

DrV June 4, 2010 at 6:34 am

The recommendation component definitely supports the argument especially given the unpredictability of physician rating sites. Patients, of course, would have to be LinkedIn members – unlikely unless in the networking business world.

The search argument is good. I'm not sure if its a strong enough value proposition for the typical busy internist in middle America.

And I should say that you're preaching to the choir here, Alex. I love LinkedIn and depend upon it as my core site for those who want to understand my background and expertise. Physicians should see themselves more as individual brands and LinkedIn helps with that.

Amanda Vega June 8, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Your patients must not be very discerning and your long terms goals must not be too lofty. In this age of information, it's remiss to think that patients aren't seeking more information and making more informed choices in picking their doctors based on information other than location and who accepts my insurance. This issue will only escalate if the new healthcare program goes into production – as those of us who are already basically paying cash for our health certainly dig into everything we can find online about a potential vendor (and yes, we consider a doctor a vendor.) If you go along the lines of word of mouth and referrals driving your business, then the same types of referrals exist from communication in places like LinkedIn.

Most physicians will be challenged to find themselves in a place of profitability in the coming days. That being said, marketing will become increasingly important – and LinkedIn is the quickest way to gain some visibility and put forth some information for a physician. Another note – if you have some bad rankings on the rating sites (and yes people do follow them regardless of their truth or not) a great LinkedIN profile can outrank that in the Google search results helping to drive the bad stuff down.

Amanda Vega

DrV June 11, 2010 at 6:47 am

Amanda. Again, I don't doubt that LinkedIn will offer some info/value for curious patients, I just don't see it functioning as a primary source. With that said, I do think that physicians need to have LinkedIn profiles whether its patients or not who are using them. I'll elaborate on this in a subsequent post.

And by the way, my goals are lofty and I care for some of the most intelligent, discerning e-patients anywhere.

Howard Luks June 11, 2010 at 3:59 pm

THoughtful post… I agree with nearly 100% of your assessment. Most docs are 100% hyper-local, static and defined by their presence in their community. In addition, most are *satisfied* with that existence. I sense however that many docs are becoming quite nervous and anxious over the enormous uncertainty that lies before us. They are beginning to wake up to fact that there are a tremendous number of industries who are willing to pay them for their knowledge, talent, insight and skill-sets. Non-clinical job conferences are gaining in popularity, and continue to trend upwards as reform, 21% cuts and malpractice concerns convince many that there might be another less stressful, yet equally appealing alternative. Perhaps you can re-title the blog post… Linked-In Part I, why most docs *didn't* use L-In and Part II should be Why docs might want to engage on Linked-In, IMX, etc…. JMHO

DrV June 11, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Too funny, Howard. The follow-up is written and curing a bit on my laptop. Look for it this weekend.

Howard Luks June 11, 2010 at 4:30 pm

What! No iPad?? :-)

Daniel Hartman June 11, 2010 at 6:17 pm

not sitting in front of a computer all day, physicians are not likely to be as highly active as other professionals. but they can definitely derive value from sharing insights with each other and their patients; discuss best practices with doctors across the globe; what about non-profit work? advocacy? this is happening on LinkedIn already. there are thousands of health care groups and some exclusively for MDs. the more active physicians become, the more value they will find.

MarkHarmel June 14, 2010 at 2:42 pm

I thought that there could be a possibility of using LinkedIn to host a private association group. It would have to be carefully monitored though to keep down the noise from promoters.

The ACP is using LI as a news-feed source and other groups are using this function as well.

DrV June 14, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Mark – Yes. I think there are huge opportunities for society/association connection. But you need a critical mass. And I push LinkedIn. Perhaps we'll get there.

Matrixband June 28, 2010 at 6:36 pm

LinkedIn is fine, I have a minimal bio there and may do more with it–, but I really think having a vibrant blog is more informative to patients and prospective patients and more likely to be found by them. Twitter is good. Facebook can be a great source as well for those that already friend you. You are correct that most docs are hyperlocal-blogs, searchable CV's are not very targeted. Each should find their own way of becomming more visible to the online community.


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