The LinkedIn Doctor: A Toe Dip Into Social Media


In 2011, MedCrunch interviewed Dr. Kevin Pho about his activity and expertise around social media in health care. Since, tools have evolved. Google+ boasts live Hangouts, YouTube gives media-rich content, and LinkedIn has emerged as an invaluable platform for education, professional network expansion, and influence. I reached out to Dr. Pho again to discuss the changed world of social media and health care.

Dr. Pho’s website,, features blog posts from over 1,000 authors and has over 1 million monthly page views. He’s followed by over 95,000 people on Twitter and  has 21,000 fans on Facebook. Dr. Pho leverages social media to inform his patients, educate physicians, and position himself an authority in the science community.

Additionally, Dr. Pho has been vocal about what he sees as the value of social media. Twitter lets you follow the conversations of importance to you.  “It is the single most powerful application for listening and for keeping informed about what’s happening in the science and medical communities,” says Dr. Pho. You don’t need to contribute, but using the hashtag tools, you can locate thought leaders, policy makers, journalists, and scientists to bring a dimensional, real-time information feed to your fingertips. Conferences? You can be at ten conferences at once with Twitter. How about meaningful engagement with your patients? It’s all possible.

Yet many doctors are overwhelmed with the idea of social media – with the time it takes to build profiles, with the community management, and with the tools themselves. Still, the value in patient engagement, education, connection, collaboration, and patient-physician transparency is undeniable and trumps inconvenience. “Social media has the power to reduce the opacity present in health care today,” says Dr. Pho. It’s still relatively early in its adoption by health care, but as social media gets more digital, and smartphones and tablets become more ubiquitously used by physicians, it will inevitably advance transparency. So with the various benefits of social media outlined, how do we encourage physicians to get online?


LinkedIn: An excellent place to start


I’ve talked about the importance of objective when developing an online presence, and Dr. Pho echoes this sentiment. Goals will vary, but one common amongst us all, is our online reputation. You choose the platform that works best for the objective you prioritize most, and the best platform for managing your online reputation is LinkedIn.

A Pew Research finding shows nearly half of the patients interviewed research their doctors online.  A physician without an online portfolio is at the mercy of negative reviews and ratings, and for this reason, Dr. Pho likes to encourage his colleagues to proactively create content for themselves. There are of course tradeoffs to displaying your credentials on such a public platform, all of which Dr. Pho runs through on his website. Yet, defining your reputation by illustrating your credentials and your authority in your field affects two of the most important patient-doctor relationship traits: respect and trust.

There’s also a promise of LinkedIn that goes beyond a static profile page. Dr. Thomas Wilckens is an MD and entrepreneur in Germany, and founder of the LinkedIn group Precision Medicine & Big Data in Life Sciences. The group exists, according to Dr. Wilckens, “To create awareness for a disruptive paradigm shift at the convergence of mobile, ICT with bio and nanotech and multi-omics analysis.”  Additionally, he is developing a venture near Munich, an area where entrepreneurial activity is defined more by rigidity and competition, rather than by agility and collaboration.


“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.” 

– George Bernard Shaw


Dr. Wilckens established an online environment that he facilitates with his accumulated expertise, and within which he can professionally thrive. By curating appropriate and discussion-worthy content, he engages with thought leaders, policy makers, and top scientists throughout the world.

Not only does LinkedIn help create critical awareness, it also can help drive action. Dr. Wilckens challenges people to think, while at the same time, creates for himself and his community a wealth of knowledge and connections. Paul Sonnier has done similarly. Because of his very successful and useful Digital Health group, Paul has been invited to be a mentor in two different health care incubators (Sprint Accelerator and Blueprint Health), and is a member of the Global Agenda Counsel on Digital Health at the World Economic Forum. His participation in these ventures literally shapes the future of digital health.


Credentials matter, but what you do with and how you shape those credentials matters more. 


Dr. Wilckens, Paul Sonnier, and Dr. Pho have established strong online personalities, where what matters most to reaching their professional objective is where and how they engage. What this means is you can create yourself as the thought leader in a particular field online, even if you’re really not. “That’s what I love about the anarchy of the web,” Dr. Wilckens says. “I’m a new venture looking for partners and funding in Europe within an area where Europe is lagging behind the US, and so I established the LinkedIn group to create awareness. Being engaged in technology and business trend analysis, I am not conducting cutting-edge research myself, but am innovating how these technologies are assembled to create new commercial products. With LinkedIn, I highlight and encourage comment on the scientists, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders etc. doing work in areas in which I am interested.”  It’s through this guiding of critical thought combined with provocation that essential education and change can happen in even the oldest of institutions.

This SlideShare further identifies the nuts and bolts of designing the online story of you and why it matters.




Previous articleThree Must Use Resources for Every Physician
Next articleEurope vs. US Digital Health Financing
Susan E. Williams (@estherswilliams) explores experiments at the intersection of health care and technology, particularly around how mobile apps, games and sensory apparatus change the way we pay attention, understand, and make decisions about our bodies, emotions, and behavior. Susan received her BA in cultural anthropology from Columbia University and her MA in East Asian Culture, with an emphasis on Japan, from New York University. She is on the board of Health 2.0 Seattle, and works (and believes) in social media communications for health care and science.