e-Patient Dave has a great story up about his wife’s knee replacement surgery done by the popular social media orthopedist Howard Luks. There are many items to note in e-Patient Dave’s write up of his wife’s experience with Dr. Luks. However, I couldn’t help but consider the impact that Howard Luks’ blogging has had on his practice.
The most obvious impact is that he’s gotten new patients from his blogging. While e-Patient Dave’s wife is one example, he’s done many posts talking about how new patients have found him through his blog and social media efforts. I won’t dig into this more since I think most doctors realize this can happen.
What I think is less obvious is that I believe blogging holds Howard Luks to a higher standard. Think about what happens when you choose to blog about something. You’re now on the record for how you’d approach something and you’re now accountable to it. By its very nature, this accountability requires a doctor (or anyone in any field) to step up to the plate and make sure that they’re working at the highest level possible. No one wants to blog about something and then be called out for not doing what they were telling other people to do.
This is a scary thing for many people and no doubt it’s why many people choose not to blog. They don’t want to be accountable to their blog. I should also note that blogging about something doesn’t mean that you have to be perfect. Some blogs can be exploratory and can help you learn and grow so that you can reach “perfection.” In fact, one of the best reasons to blog is to help you refine and improve what you’re doing. I’m sure Howard Luks has benefited from this as well. There’s nothing like thousands of people educating you on why and how
you’re wrong you can improve.
While this accountability is powerful, what’s even more powerful about blogging is that it requires you to really sit down and think through why and how you do something. This is especially true for physician bloggers. That time spent thinking through and evaluating your processes is powerful. I think you see the results of this type of deep thinking in the results described by e-Patient Dave above. His wife likely benefited from Howard Luks spending time thinking deeply about how he practices medicine and ensuring he is practicing in the most effective way possible.
I’m not saying you have to be a blogger and share your processes publicly to think deeply about the way you practice. However, blogging publicly about how you practice medicine is a great way to force yourself to do this evaluation. Plus, the fact that people are going to read, evaluate, comment,
rip to shreds, give feedback, and help you refine your approach forces you to raise your standard.
I’ve seen this happen over and over again with blogging. It’s had that effect on me as a father once I started my daddy blog. I had to start upping my game as a father since I couldn’t write about how I was an average father that had average experiences. I was forced to become the father I wanted to be. My wife has benefited too since who wants to write about being the lazy husband who doesn’t do the dishes? It doesn’t work. However, I can write about the amazing experience of putting the dishes away even though I wanted to sit down with some TV.
How often in medicine do doctors prefer to sit down with TV as opposed to going the extra mile to optimize their practice? Blogging can change that paradigm.
I’ve seen the same happen for healthcare IT and EHR companies. Once these companies blog about the importance of EHR up time or making EHR software usable, they raise the standard for how they approach those two problems. First, they’re not going to blog about those things if they haven’t worked hard to make sure they’ve done a good job in those areas. Second, once they’ve blogged about it, it often becomes part of the culture of who they are at the company. In fact, healthcare IT CEO’s have to be a little careful about what they blog about since it’s a powerful medium that can push their company in the right or wrong direction. A few pointed blog posts can really impact a company’s culture. Although, as a user I definitely prefer a healthcare IT vendor that blogs. I think it forces the company to think critically and deeply about the challenges their customers face. Plus, it gives you a view into the culture of the company.
Going back to where we started. Would e-Patient Dave have written such a glowing article about his wife’s visit to Howard Luks if Dr. Luks wasn’t blogging? The obvious answer is no since it would have been unlikely that e-Patient Dave would have known about Dr. Luks. While this is true, I also think that many of the processes and approaches that e-Patient Dave describes would likely not be in place if Dr. Luks wasn’t such an avid blogger. Blogging about your business forces you to raise your standard.