According to research conducted for the UK Digital Health Report, adults are more likely to Google their health symptoms before consulting a professional GP or pharmacist.
No doubt this does not come as a surprise, and undoubtedly as a GP practice you have witnessed countless instances of patients having first consulted Dr Google before arriving at the surgery with their less than accurate diagnoses.
The internet is no stranger to misleading health information, and this is certainly not good for patients, or healthcare providers. But instead of dealing reactively with the problem, there is something proactive that GPs and healthcare experts can be doing in order to allay the many myths and inappropriate messages that are so prevalent online.
GPs hold a unique position in that they are more than able to help educate the public with the correct information. By sharing their knowledge, everyone will benefit, including patients, GPs and the health service in general.
Helping to bust the myths is an important job
Blogging on seasonal or commonly searched health topics is something all GPs should actively be doing if they want to help to bust the myths, clarify common misunderstandings and share accurate information about health and disease and how to manage them.
Education is crucial in so many respects when it comes to healthcare. Even a simple post about the importance of a flu jab, how it works and information to put people's minds at ease about having it (perhaps by explaining that the jab doesn't actually cause flu) could make a significant difference, as could useful information about dealing with or avoiding back pain for example; and these are just the tips of the iceberg.
The scope is very wide indeed and the beauty of it is that the local GP will have unique insights into the very issues that are predominant across their own communities, which means they can focus their attention on matters that are wholly relevant.
Aside from the important role they play in educating the public, GP bloggers offer further benefits to the practice. GPs who blog are considered thought leaders, which is excellent for patient and community relations and does a very good job of profile-raising.
Furthermore, Google loves fresh content on a website, rewarding the GP website with a rankings boost, which of course is great news for search positions.
How to Blog
So now you know the benefits of blogging, let's take a look at some best practice tips.
Once you start blogging, you'll need to keep doing so at a consistent frequency. One to two blogs per month is a reasonable quantity, providing your time allows and you can stick to this commitment. If you have more than one willing blogger within your practice, so much the better, as you'll not only be able to share the load but you'll also be able to cover a wider scope of expertise and demonstrate specialist knowledge in particular areas.
Once you've published your blog, be sure to share it across all your GP practice social platforms including Facebook and Twitter. This will push your post out to a wider audience, particularly if your followers share it with their own communities. When sharing the post, research hashtags (e.g. #flujab) to accompany your introduction. This will draw in an even larger audience of people who are searching for the topics you have tagged.
Your blog is most certainly not the place to be discussing anything that could be deemed confidential and is definitely not for answering personal questions posed by patients. It goes without saying that mentioning names is a no-no, and care should also be taken when addressing any comments that follow your posts. For anything that is remotely personal, the best response is always a polite note to contact the practice for personalised advice.
You'll want to make sure your topics are relevant. Seasonal content is always a winner, and of course as a GP practice you'll be well aware of the issues that matter to your patients, so make those a priority. If there are conditions that are commonly misdiagnosed care of Dr Google, those will also make for informative blogs. Always be sure to include a disclaimer at the end of your posts stating that the content is intended as generic information only and should not be taken as personalised advice, directing readers to seek that from the practice should it be necessary.
Always include a short piece at the end of your post that provides information about the author. A photograph is a great idea as this will help readers relate more easily, and a few details about your qualifications and experience and any specialist areas of expertise will also put readers at ease and boost their trust in the accuracy and quality of the information provided.
Ready to get blogging?
If you already have a website designed by Tree View Designs, you can use your news function to post blogs. If you could use some assistance you are welcome to get in touch, and similarly our NHS website design experts are here to help should you be interested in setting up a new, blogging-friendly GP website.