How to create a blog that makes a difference

“If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.” ~ Steve Jobs

It’s great to see the steady increase in interest for social media in healthcare. What’s your passion? If you are keen to start a blog or further improve your blogging skills, there are amazing bloggers you should follow, like Seth Godin, Jeff Goins, Michael Hyatt.

My slideshow How to create a blog that makes a difference (above) contains quotes and tips from some of my idols in the blogosphere. I have also attempted to collect and present the (many) reasons why people start a blog in healthcare, common pitfalls, 3 steps for putting a great blog idea into action, and lots of tips for writing awesome posts.

Enjoy!

5 business tips for doctors

When I finished medical school I was clueless about the business of healthcare. Over the years I worked in different settings and businesses and it’s been an interesting journey.

I’ve learned most from my mistakes. Here is my top-5 tips for doctors who are or want to go in business.

#1: Do it for the right reasons

Before you start a business, practice, solo locum company or otherwise, make sure you know why you want to do it. As Simon Sinek asks: do you know the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you to do what you do? We often know exactly the what and how of what we’re doing, but not always the why…

And if you’re joining a partnership: Do you know what drives your business partners? Do their values and believes agree with yours? It has been said before, but money is not a reason, it is a result. It always starts with passion.

#2: Get the right advice

There are many services that may add value to your business: advisors, accountants, financial services, IT consultants, human resources companies, lawyers etc. If you add it all up it can be expensive. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind when dealing with third parties:

  • Avoid becoming dependent on them. Give them a few months to set up systems and train you or your staff. If you have to go back to them for every contract, website update, transaction or other issue, something is wrong (unless they are cheaper than in-house services, but this is rarely the case).
  • Don’t be afraid to make changes. Doctors are loyal – as banks know. But sometimes it is healthy to change providers, especially if you are paying top dollars and feel you’re not getting top service. Another accountant may pick up an overlooked issue, another IT provider may find some holes in your security etc.
  • Work on your terms, not theirs. Some consultants want you to use their products and their systems – and they will often charge for it. This is not always necessary, may create more work and adds to the bottom line. Look for useful advice that empowers you and your staff. Keep things simple.
  • Don’t accept higher fees because you’re a doctor or because a provider specialises in the health industry. As doctors we often think we’re special. This may be the case (although I’m not entirely convinced), but it doesn’t mean that you have to find providers that only service medical clients. When it comes to IT or tax or law, healthcare is not that different from other industries.

#3: Understand your business

If you can’t explain it properly, you don’t understand it well enough – this is true for many things, and certainly for a business. Like doctors, professional consultants should be empowering their clients and encourage them to self-manage.

Aim for a business structure that’s transparent and easy to understand. This also includes the finance structures and legal agreements. Don’t sign off on anything unless you understand it fully. Do your due-diligence and take time to consider decisions. Walk away if you feel uncomfortable or pressured.

#4: Beware of conflicts of interest

A financial advisor receiving bonuses or other incentives to sell products may not be working in your best interest. Always ask for a disclosure of potential conflicts of interest. But there may be other, less obvious conflicts of interest that can become an issue down the track. This can also happen within a group of owners. Examples include:

  • Some owners work on the business where others only work in the business
  • Some owners work full-time and others part-time
  • Some owners own bigger or smaller shares in the business or real-estate
  • Some owners have family members working in the business
  • Some owners have the same lawyers, accountants or bank managers

In an ideal world there are no conflicts of interest but that’s not always possible. Ask yourself: Can I live with these conflicts? It’s important to disclose and discuss all potential issues before signing any agreement.

#5: Commit

Expect ups and downs. It may take a few years before a business takes off. Be prepared for erratic government decisions that will have an impact on your bottom line and the patient services you can provide.

Find a great practice manager – see my post 4 things to look for in a practice manager. A skilful management team is an excellent investment with good returns and will give you peace of mind.

If you’re like me you will make mistakes and hopefully learn from them. You may also need to master new skills – something I enjoyed as it has broadened my horizons. Finally, always look after your team and don’t forget your loved ones at home.

Blogging: What do you write when you have nothing to say?

The SoMeGP team was presenting about social media and blogging at the recent GP Education & Training conference (GPET13) in Perth, when this great question came from the audience: “What do you write when you have nothing to say?”

It is a common problem and the fear of every writer and blogger: not knowing where to start. Yet, the medical profession is full of topics to write about. In fact, most doctors, especially GP supervisors, have enough experience to explain a range of topics to patients, registrars, students and staff. It’s just a matter of putting these words in writing.

If you can email, you can blog. But the great thing of online media is that there are many ways to present information: traditional blogs, videos, podcasts, slide shows etc.

Take time to figure out what you want to do with your blog before you begin. Here are some tips to get started:

#1: Write for patients

Debunking myths is always a hit, and (de-identified) questions from our patients are a great place to start: Does hypertension always cause a headache? Is tonsillitis contagious? Can the flu shot cause influenza? Are antibiotics effective against sinusitis? Can Alzheimer’s disease be prevented? Should I have an annual cancer test? Blog about smoking cessation, healthy foods tips, how to perform CPR, etc

#2: Write for colleagues

Most doctors have a passion or field of interest, and sharing this knowledge or skills is fun and much appreciated by many colleagues. GP supervisors could help registrars by blogging about exam preparation, study tips, or asking & answering questions in blogs and online forums, like FOAM4GP.

#3: Write about the profession

Never a dull moment in health care. We have got a wonderful profession, but the ever-changing rules, ‘good ideas’ and intentions by policy makers and the flood of bureaucracy and red tape need to be reviewed and discussed, and blogging is a very effective way to do this. Work-life balance is another ongoing challenge. If you are passionate about a topic, do your research and share it with the world – we want to hear from you!

It sometimes helps to write things down during the day or use one of the many free apps, like Evernote, to collect and organise your thoughts and ideas. The advantage of Evernote is that it captures anything, can be accessed from mobile devices and computers and syncs between them.

And remember, a good blog post doesn’t have to be long: 300-500 words fine. Still in need of inspiration? Have a look at my number 1 blogging tip you should always keep in mind.

2×5 questions you should ask your doctor

There are a 5 simple questions you can ask your doctor about tests and 5 questions about the treatment, to be better informed, and get the outcome you want.

Testing

  1. How certain or uncertain are you about my diagnosis?
  2. Are further tests required?
  3. If so, how good are the tests?
  4. Are there risks or downsides to the tests?
  5. Is testing necessary or are there other options?

Treatment

  1. What treatments options do I have?
  2. How successful is the treatment?
  3. Are there risks attached to the treatment? Eg adverse reactions, interactions with other medications, antibiotic resistance, bleeding, infection.
  4. Is the treatment necessary or are there other options? Eg wait, try lifestyle changes first, do further tests, see another doctor.
  5. Is there anything else I need to know about the treatment? Eg how to administer, when to come back, how to prevent this from happening again.

5 things to remember before a doctor’s visit

It happens regularly: people visit a doctor but have difficulty providing essential details about their health.

Sometimes people incorrectly assume that all information is always at my fingertips. I don’t blame them; the healthcare sector is complicated and going to the doctor is understandably not everybody’s cup of tea.

And in all fairness, it’s not easy to remember when we had our last tetanus vaccination or in which year we were in the local hospital.

I hope the following five tips will help to make the most of your doctor’s visit.

1. Gather information

Write facts down, together with your questions. The doctor may ask a few things such as: when you first noticed the problem, what made it better or worse, and what your main concerns are. Make sure you know what your questions and expectations are.

  • Tip: Feel free to do your research on the Internet and check your findings with the doctor. Remember that online health information may not be applicable to you.

2. Allow enough time

If you want to discuss a complicated issue or a few problems, consider booking a long appointment to avoid running out of time.

3. Ask a friend or family member to join you

Having someone with you is helpful in many ways: to ask questions, to remember what has been discussed, for support and to give you a lift to and from the clinic if you are unwell.

4. Keep a record of all your past and present health problems

This is important. Doctors always need background information about your health. Don’t automatically assume the doctor always has all the required information.

  • Tip: Your own record could include a list of your medical problems, diagnoses, hospital admissions, operations, medications, vaccinations, allergies to or side effects from certain medications, products or food. Outcomes of important tests are always helpful. Keep a paper record or store the information in a safe place on your computer, phone or preferably electronic health record.

5. Never leave things to the last moment

A doctor’s visit just before a holiday trip, or on a Friday afternoon may cause problems – for example if your doctor needs to do more tests or the recommended medications are not available in the pharmacy. Sometimes a last-minute visit is unavoidable but often good planning goes a long way!