Q/A With Dr. Kristen Stuppy: Mother, Wife, Practicing Pediatrician, and Social Media Maven

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 11.46.47 AMLast year, Dr. Kristen Stuppy and I had an opportunity to do a webinar together for the AAP about social media.

While preparing for the webinar and deciding on the content we were going to address, Dr. Stuppy and I exchanged several emails. Below, I’ve compiled our email and phone conversation along with the questions I asked Dr. Stuppy in preparation for the webinar.

Dr. Stuppy’s answers provide a lot of insight in to the value of social media; not only personally, but also professionally. She shares how she manages her online presence, where she finds content and patient’s reactions to her online efforts.

Dr. Stuppy, could you share with us a little bit about your how long you’ve been practicing, where your practice is located, and how many docs?

14 years, practice in Overland Park, a south west suburb of KC. 4 docs and several midlevels

So, you are the SM champion of your practice, I know this because I follow you closely. But before we get into how you manage a strong online presence, work in a busy practice while balancing work and home life, share with us how long have you been on social media?

Some time in 2009-10 a senior partner suggested I start our office FB page. He suggested me because I had done our website’s articles. At the time I had a personal FB account that I rarely used, so I first played around on it for a bit to see how it worked, then opened a business page.

Did you first dive in as most people do with Facebook as a way to connect with family and old high school friends?

I don’t know that “dive in” is accurate. I have a personal page, but it is not used as frequently as my business page. It can be very addictive to spend time looking for good updates. Big time waster. When I find an old friend, I look at pictures of their kids. That is always fun. I will sometimes see updates, but I don’t post very often to my personal page. No one needs to know what I eat and everything I do. Those posts I find annoying. Business pages are much more informational and suit my needs more, so I spend my time there.

At one point, you started hearing about the potential of social media in medicine, walk us through how this idea of using social media as a pediatrician started to form.

As I mentioned, a Sr partner suggested it. He was good at coming up with ideas and giving the work to someone else. While I could have declined, I thought it was a good idea that suited me. I enjoyed being on the high school newspaper/yearbook staff and even my medical school yearbook staff. This seemed like a new way to share that type of information. I wasn’t afraid of computers, so thought I’d try it out.

Did you have an epiphany of sorts or did your interest grow as you learned more about SM?

My interest grew as I did more online. I originally planned on posting several times a week and more about our office itself. I still post our flu shot clinics, weather closings, reminders to schedule PEs, and other office business, but I have found that another great purpose is to share information.

The more I followed various pages on FB, the more pages I found to follow from their shared posts. I soon found that I had to register for email newsletters from my favorites because I missed great posts on their FB pages. It has become really important to me to share reliable medical information, something I don’t think I considered much when first starting out. The information out there has grown too. My original goal was to post 2-4 times/ week. I currently post 3-4 times/day on average.

Can you describe what is so cool about it? As a practicing pediatrician, what is it that you see in these internet tools?

Very little in medicine gets immediate positive rewards. Telling a parent that their child has a cough and it will take a couple weeks to get better, watch for these complications… it can get old.

Parents never give thanks for that. But with social media, you get instant “likes” or comments. I found that I can share solid reliable information with many people in a short time. Safety, illness treatments, insurance tips, and more.

We can communicate with followers in a way that fosters learning in both directions. Comments might drive me to find more articles to post that show it in another way because parents are still questioning, or comments might even initiate a discussion in my office on how we can improve based on a negative comment.

Do you view your SM media efforts as a hobby, or do you view this new way of communicating with people part of your job as an advocate for children?

Some people watch TV. Others golf. I surf the web. It is a hobby to me. I enjoy my time reading and sharing the right articles. It is also an advocacy position. That makes the hobby more rewarding.

You manage more than just your practice’s Facebook page. You have a presence in other social media sites, like Pinterest. Run down for us all SM platforms you engage.

In addition to my office FB page, I am one of the administrators on the unofficial AAP SOAPM “We Are Pediatrician’s” page. You mentioned Pinterest– that page is personal, but linked to my office website so I can share websites with patients. I also use Twitter and have an account at LinkedIn but don’t use it. I have a GooglePlus account, but use it mostly to share my own blog updates. I probably need to work more with Google, since more people are joining it.

Share with us your philosophy or your purpose. Do you do this as a marketing strategy for your practice? Do you view this as just a more efficient way to advocate for children in a broader capacity?

The original purpose of SM for our office was of course marketing. I’m sure it does draw new patients, but we’ve never measured that number. I personally feel the biggest benefit is educating my current patients. I love it when I start to do the car seat talk and mom says, “Oh, we’ll be rear facing for a long time… saw that on your FB page.” I then can stop that discussion short and spend more time on something else. I know the people who frequently interact on FB and I do change my well visit discussions with them. I can spend more time on things I don’t post regularly. It makes the time in the office better spent.

How about the tools you use and the difference in each one of them?

I rely heavily on HootSuite to manage my accounts. It is one of several scheduling tools that allows me to pre-post articles. I can choose post to my 2 FB accounts and Twitter at the same time, different times but the same information, or select which SM site I want it to go to. It doesn’t take any more time to post to all 3 than it does one – except that Twitter limits characters, so I often change my intro statement for Tweets.

Often times, people think of SM as Facebook and Twitter, but SM is more. For example, blogging. You also blog, could you tell us why blogging matters?

Blogging allows me to talk about what’s on my mind. We all get tired of giving the fever talk a million times a day, but I can write about it and share with hundreds within a week. It can slow the phone calls in my office or when I’m on call to blog about the current illness going around.

I have also used it to answer common questions that I couldn’t find good information to post, such as “will standing hurt baby’s legs?” I also hope to educate families about children’s healthcare on a bigger scale.

I find great satisfaction knowing that thousand’s have read my article on generic Concerta substitutions. I am worried that going back and forth between brands will cause overdosing due to the difference in time release of the different formulations. If I can save one child from the effects of an overdose, it will be worth while.

How do you find topics for your blogs?

I tend to write about what is on my mind. Most are illness related or parenting topics. This time of year complaints start coming in from parents who get billed for summer PE components. I really hate those phone calls, so I wrote about why they get a bill.

I can refer to that when I talk to parents, but my hope is that people start reading this information before the next PE, so they won’t have the surprise bill in the first place.

 How often do you post?

I schedule 3-4 posts per day. Sometimes something comes up, such as recall notices or a fun community event that I learn about too late to pre-post. Occasionally our office administrator will share things, such as a fun picture taken at the office (with parental written consent if applicable), phone problem notices, etc.

Where do you find content to share?

I follow many FB business pages, such as other pediatric offices, parenting sites, AAP section and State pages, poison control, pro-vaccine sites, CDC pages, sleep consultant pages… so many!

FB rotates which pages I see on any given day, so I can choose to go specifically to a page to see it. I also manage the pages by adding them to interest lists, so I can choose from Nutrition, behavior, fun kid stuff, etc. (whatever I have grouped together).

My favorite blogs I don’t want to miss I subscribe to their newsletters so their posts come by email. Twitter is another great source that I don’t use as much as I should.

How do you decide what content goes where or do you post the same message all across the board?

I differentiate posts based on the audience. My office posts are geared toward patient families. I watch the Insights statistics to see what posts people are actually reading.

Highest numbers tend to be funny cartoons, quotes, or other quick information. Another trend I’ve noticed is when I post something with a warning (such as “don’t read if you get offended with bad language”), people tend to read those more.

I guess parents are like kids, they want to see what’s of questionable nature. I do restrict those types of articles to only those with a very strong good point, but sometimes it is too good of an article to not post.

When I first started, I decided to steer away from funny cartoons and things, but when I posted one and got such a response, I started to post more. I still try to mostly post information I want people to read, but we have fun on the page too! It is good to try to get people to comment or at least Like a post so it shares on their wall– that’s how posts go viral!

The We Are Pediatricians (WAP) page has a completely different audience. I see this as a blend between personal and professional. The followers should be my peers, not patients, though it is an open page and anyone can follow it.

I do post the same patient directed articles there, but also business management articles. I do post more liberally the questionable or controversial articles on that page, since I want pediatricians to be aware of those issues. I hope people read articles before they share on their office FB pages!

My Twitter followers also tend to be more professionals, so I post some business things there as well as patient information. I keep it pretty non-controversial too since the feed displays on my office website.

My blog automatically posts to Google+, but unless I hit the G+ on an article I really like or comment on a Google blog, I don’t post to Google specifically.

What are your thoughts on hiring somebody to drive a practice’s SM effort?

While I can see how starting a FB page seems like a time consuming and daunting task, I try to make it easy with the WAP page. If someone follows it and a couple other pages they can find plenty to post every day. The benefit to doing it yourself is that you can add your own thoughts in the introductory statement. This is a great opportunity to let your patients know your thoughts.

If you hire someone to do this for you, you will need to know how that person will choose content, what they will say about it, and how they will respond to comments.

Be sure they understand how to pick articles that have reliable healthcare information. There’s a lot of misinformation out there. I will sometimes love an article but one part of it is not what I agree with. I can use the intro statement to add my 2 cents about what I would do or say differently with an overall endorsement of the remaining article. How would a non-medical marketing person handle that?

As long as you have the ground rules for them, it can be done. But in my opinion that is money not well spent. It is not hard to do it yourself.

How much time would you say you spend on SM a day or a week?

This is hard, because I spend about two hours weekdays doing computer work, all before my kids get up or after they go to bed. This is all my personal and professional email, scheduling posts, checking FB for comments, and more. I do spend a little more time on weekends, but mostly because I use that time for blogging and reading articles I didn’t get to during the week.

 Is it necessary to spend that much time? Could you spend less time and still have a presence?

Remember that I probably do a lot more than someone who just wants to post a few articles per day. This is my hobby too! I make it easy for others to just share articles by posting to WAP. If all you do is share some of those articles, you could do this in a few minutes a day.

What do your patients think about all this?

I hear so many positive comments, which makes it very rewarding. I’ve even been stopped in the hall by my partner’s patients who thank me. They love the information and have given many specific examples over the years on how it helped them.

How do you think social media has benefited your practice, your patients or your parents?

As I mentioned before, sharing information has allowed fewer phone calls due to improved education of parents. It can decrease time during visits discussing common issues, saving time for more specific concerns of a family.

It has also allowed sharing of important office events, such as late openings due to bad weather, phone line problems, and vaccine clinics. Patients have had fun seeing their pictures at times.

Do you separate your personal digital presence and your professional presence? If so, how do you?

I think since I must be professional on my social sites, I don’t really separate them much. I tend to be a bit more careful online- especially with my office page, since in the office I can be a little more free of speech if I know who I’m talking to. That’s the same with all social media. I would advise anyone to be careful what they post since it can be misunderstood and it is forever discoverable.

To visit or follow Dr. Stuppy’s online presence, click on the links below.

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