In this interview, Dr Justin Smith from Cook Children’s Hospital discusses his new role in marketing and communication. His position represents an new role for physicians as health organizations become more connected with the communicating public. I was able to catch up Dr. Smith during Social Media Week at The Mayo Clinic.
How do you use social media at Cook Children’s Hospital?
The main way I use social media is as a patient education tool. I see it as a place to provide basic pediatric content that parents can access at home. I also use it as a way to communicate about current events in health, whether a new infectious disease or a new discovery that could be useful to children.
Tell we what properties you live and create on as a physician.
My main means of giving information is my blog. I post twice a week on Cook Children’s Newsroom (Checkupnewsroom.com). In addition, I communicate via Facebook with some interaction regarding general health information. I use twitter (@thedocsmitty) to curate information in the health world as well as the marketing world. I look for new strategies from the marketing world to understand new ways to share information to parents.
So you use Twitter and Facebook to reach different populations?
Yes, it turns out that way. I didn’t know that when I started how it would sort out. But I learned over time that the majority of my followers on facebook are families that are seeking health information from me. The majority of my followers on Twitter are other physicians and other people interested in what I’m doing as a physician communicator.
Tell me about your role at Cook Children’s Hospital.
My position is medical advisor for digital health. This involves three basic roles. My first role is creating content for the blog and engaging in social media. The second role is consulting with the marketing team about what’s happening in the pediatric world and what we need to be writing about. The 3rd role is as an educator for the doctors regarding online presence, reputation management, reviews, etc.
This sounds like an emerging role for organizations. Do you think there’s potential at large health organizations?
Definitely. The issues we address as part of the marketing team are things that all health care entities are facing now and will face in the years to come. I feel that Cook has positioned me in a place where I have some authority to speak into these issues. This has affected my ability to have a platform to do what I like to do.
I’d call Cook Children’s a forward thinking organization, no?
I definitely agree with that. Cook has been very supportive of my position. And not just in the marketing team, we’ve had support across the administration. The president of our physician network right up to the CEO have been critical in endorsing this role.
So buy in from leadership is important?
Definitely. There’s no way we could have done this as quickly as we’ve have without full support from the administration.
How much time to do spend creating content and engaging?
I average probably 8 hours a week. I log roughly 30 hours a month. This involves writing and consulting with other doctors on posts.
How do you balance public engagement with patient care?
It’s a work in progress. I work 4.5 days per week in general pediatric practice. Actually, patient care enhances what I do in my communication work. I’m in front of patients hearing their questions day after day. The two blend together in a lot of ways. What I write about is often an extension of what I’ve talked about in the clinic that day.
So the creation of content improves your core knowledge?
It improves my core knowledge and ability to communicate that knowledge. My messages are firm because I’ve written about them. It’s not uncommon for me to prescribe a post to a family.
What do you see next for yourself? Is there something you want to do more of?
Because I’m a true member of the Cook marketing team, our goals align. So we want to continue to further the reach of the newsroom. Our newsroom has been live since March 2014. Personally, we are looking to increase our video. We have seen how video can improve our reach but also there are more barriers to getting it done. Finally, I’ve learned a lot blogging on my own. Now I’ve seen what its like to do it inside of a larger organization. I feel like I could provide some guidance to other organizations that want to do this.
Cook has a newsroom? I thought newsrooms were for TV stations.
We have worked hard to build our Cook Brand Journalism site (checkupnewsroom.com). We use it as a newsroom to push out information. We have found that we can better craft stories around our patients and providers. If we craft the stories, we can shape how those stories are received by the public. In fact, we commonly are the first news source in the area to report a story and we, in turn, get calls from the news stations. One of the best examples of that was the recent outbreak in enterovirus in north Texas. We saw the trend over a weekend, reported it on Monday morning and were recognized as one of the leaders in understanding the progression of the virus. This lead to extensive coverage in the local media.
Is there any platform that doesn’t work for you?
I’ve tried Instagram and Pinterest. While there likely is a role for them, they just don’t fit with my style at this point.