Physicians from 5 specialties need to blog about these topics
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Today’s Top 5 Specialties For Physician Blogs

Physicians who blog regularly about timely topics of relevance to their patients are enjoying a number of benefits. I discussed relevant data in a blog in July.

Though both academic and private practice physicians are recognizing that it’s important to have a strong digital presence, they too often default to out-of-date communications techniques that do not translate well to the digital world. One of the most common mistakes is focusing on self-promotional content. For goals ranging from education to sales, the data clearly indicate that providing content that is useful to your audience is a more effective way to engage them and to develop lasting relationships with them. 

While bringing attention to awards and positive testimonials can be beneficial, patients are much more interested in high quality, up-to-date medical information. It is the latter type of content that will bring patients (and other audiences) coming back to physician blogs and websites. Indeed, though people often search for physician ratings and reviews, they more often search for answers to their medical questions. 

There are several hot topics in medicine today, but 5 specialties in particular are well-poised to drive traffic to their sites by blogging about the following trending topics. 

1. Neurology

Neurology Blog

TOPIC: How An Asthma Drug May Protect Against Parkinson’s Disease

BACKGROUND: A study on Parkinson’s disease that was published in Science this month is receiving significant media coverage. After investigating the health records of over 4 million Norwegians over an 11-year period,  the research team discovered that those taking a β2AR agonist were less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease, while those taking a β2AR antagonist were more likely to develop the disease.

OPPORTUNITY: Given that the β2AR agonist is commonly used to fight asthma, much of the relevant media attention this month has focused on the potential of repurposing an asthma drug to impact Parkinson’s disease. Patients are therefore likely to have questions about what it means if they or their loved ones take the asthma medication. They are perhaps even more likely to wonder what the implications are for those who may be at an increased risk for Parkinson’s disease but are not on asthma medications.

Neurologists who explain the results of this highly publicized study on their websites – along with the study’s practical implications and comments on how patients’ questions will likely be addressed with future research – will demonstrate their dedication to addressing patients’ inquiries in real-time as well as their commitment to staying up-to-date on research relevant to their practice. 

2. Colon & Rectal Surgery

TOPIC: Important Information on How to Prevent Colorectal Cancer

BACKGROUND: There has been growing attention in recent months on the rise of colorectal cancer in young adults. A study published in JAMA last month found that the mortality rates associated with colorectal cancer in young adults are also increasing, and the findings have been permeating throughout the media. Accompanying this interest in colorectal cancer are considerations about how diet may impact the risk of developing the disease, with popular articles focusing on the potential of probiotics and whole grains. 

OPPORTUNITY: Colon & rectal experts have an opportunity to help patients navigate the abundance of new content on colorectal cancer. These physicians can also bolster patients’ understanding of relevant research by filling in gaps in the media coverage. For instance, major outlets like the New York Times failed to explain that the higher incidence of colorectal cancer currently observed in young adults is confined to white men and women. Physicians who provide these additional details and comment on their implications for different patient populations will enhance their patients’ satisfaction and their trust in them.

3. Sleep Medicine

Sleep Medicine Blog

TOPIC: Sorry, Dog Lovers – There’s No Evidence That Sleeping With Your Pet is Good For You

BACKGROUND: There’s been an enormous amount of media coverage of a Mayo Clinic study that investigated the effect of sleeping in the same room as a dog. The study found that sleeping with a dog in the same room did not disturb adult sleepers. However, if the dog was in the person’s bed, the person tended to have a lower quality of sleep. Sleep quality was also disrupted by multiple animals in the room, regardless of if any were in the bed. 

OPPORTUNITY: People who catch snippets of the coverage of this sleep study but do not read the details are susceptible to the misperception that sleeping with pets improves sleep. For instance, someone who sees only the title of The Today Show‘s Health & Wellness article: “Should your pets sleep in the bed with you? A new study’s surprising answers” are likely to think a surprising answer is “yes” and walk away with the false notion that sleeping with pets somehow enhances their health and wellness. Time Magazine‘s title: “Here’s why sleeping with your dog is actually good for you” actively misleads people into thinking that “sleeping with your dog is actually good for you,” though none of the data from the discussed study demonstrate any advantages of sleeping anywhere near pets. 

Sleep medicine patients will therefore both appreciate and benefit from sleep medicine experts who help to clarify the results of the study. Patients are most likely to benefit if you correct the misperceptions upfront in your title or social media commentary. For instance, the blog title: “Sorry, Dog Lovers – There’s No Evidence That Sleeping With Your Pet is Good For You” efficiently combats the misleading headlines that suggest that research shows that you should sleep with your pets. 

4. Otolaryngology

Otolaryngology

TOPIC: Reflux – How Changing Your Diet Can Be As Powerful As Medication

BACKGROUND: Several media outlets have covered a recent article in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery showing that a plant-based, mediterranean diet reduced laryngopharyngeal reflux to a similar extent as proton pump inhibitors.

OPPORTUNITY: Interest in this study provides an opportunity for otolaryngologists to not only address the treatment of laryngopharyngeal reflux but also to provide diet-based recommendations. Food and nutrition information represents some of the most popular medically relevant content on the Internet. However, much of the accessible information is not based on scientific evidence. Thus, physicians who take advantage of the opportunity to guide conversations on these topics can improve patients’ understanding of the way their diets influence their health while simultaneously enhancing patients’ interest in their websites and practices. 

5. Plastic Surgery

Plastic Surgery Blog

TOPIC: When You Really Need a Plastic Surgeon – And When You Don’t

BACKGROUND: A study by researchers at Northwestern University on the nature of plastic surgery posts on Instagram has been covered by major media outlets like the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. The crux of the findings is that physicians who are performing cosmetic procedures but who are not board-certified in plastic surgery represent the majority of engagement on plastic surgery topics on Instagram. 

OPPORTUNITY: The media storm concerning the implications of the study presents significant opportunities for plastic surgeons. Critically, it opens the door for plastic surgeons to establish a voice around what is means to be board-certified in plastic surgery – and when it’s important for patients to distinguish between such physicians and others who may also perform cosmetic procedures. 

Given that the American Board of Plastic Surgery is the only relevant board that the American Board of Medical Specialties recognizes, building awareness of the American Board of Plastic Surgery and of the importance of being recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties is the simplest way to help patients understand who has the specific plastic surgery board certification and associated training and who has a different type of certification. However, while some plastic surgeons are understandably tempted to condemn other physicians for performing cosmetic procedures and to warn patients about the potential dangers, other approaches may be more effective for building trust with patients and with medical colleagues.

For instance, it may be more useful to acknowledge times when those without plastic surgery board certification may be reasonably qualified to perform procedures. Another practical approach is to suggest testable hypotheses about the contexts in which outcomes likely differ significantly depending on who performs the surgeries. These types of thoughtful engagements could inspire important research on the association between surgical experience and outcomes while also demonstrating a commitment to evidence-based practice rather than to self-serving policies. 

Other Specialties

Several of the topics we identified for August blogs are becoming even more popular and so are still very relevant. 

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Nisha Cooch
nisha.cooch@gmail.com
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