Survey Highlights Healthcare Professionals’ Use of Social Media, Mobile Technology

By Jennifer Larson, contributor

November 21, 2013 - It’s a pretty good bet that many of the doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and pharmacists in your organization have a smartphone and use it on a regular basis.

But what are they using it for? To connect with friends through social media? To search for healthcare information relevant to their jobs? To network with others in their profession? Yes, yes, and yes.

AMN Healthcare recently released the results of its 2013 Survey of Social Media and Mobile Usage by Healthcare Professionals: Job Search and Career Trends. The results showed that healthcare professionals are constantly refining their use of social media, as well as their use of mobile technology.

According to the survey, three out of four healthcare professionals now use a smartphone, with a growing number using their smartphones to access healthcare-related content and job information.  In fact, the use of social media for job searching purposes has almost doubled since the first social media survey was conducted in 2010, and now reaches 41 percent.

The implications of social media’s role in the job search

Clinicians are becoming increasingly discerning about their job searches, based on this year’s healthcare social media survey. Overall, they are using fewer resources to look for employment than in previous years. The most frequently cited sources for job searches this year were direct contact, online job boards and referrals.

Many use social media as one of their job search avenues. They primarily use it to look at job postings, research companies, search for professional contacts or to network. As social media evolves, healthcare professionals will be able to use it in a more sophisticated way to aid them in a job search.

Ralph Henderson: Healthcare social media needs a clear strategy to best attract candidates.
Ralph Henderson, president of healthcare staffing at AMN Healthcare, emphasized the importance of a social media strategy for healthcare organizations. “If you’re not monitoring and managing your online reputation, you’re missing out on great candidates."

“Now candidates are moving beyond job searching,” said Ralph Henderson, president of healthcare staffing at AMN Healthcare. “You can use social media to find out what the culture and work environment is like before you apply.”

That means that healthcare organizations that utilize social media to attract job candidates will want to take a good look at their social media presence to make sure it fully reflects their organization. Just as healthcare organizations have a branding strategy that explains to the public what they stand for, they should also have a branding strategy for employees and for recruiting future employees.

“Companies need to make sure that their employer branding strategy comes across on their website, their mobile site and other social media,” said Henderson.

People want to see fresh content, Henderson noted, and they don’t want to get frustrated looking for what they need. If a potential job seeker views a health system’s LinkedIn page or Facebook page and can’t find useful, current information, they’re going to move on to a competitor. If organizations are using social media to recruit employees, they must have professionals who maintain those social media platforms to keep them updated and relevant.

“Reputation matters,” said Henderson. “If you’re not monitoring and managing your online reputation, you’re missing out on great candidates.”

The rise of LinkedIn

Another key finding from AMN’s 2013 healthcare social media survey is the growing preference that healthcare professionals have for LinkedIn.

The survey revealed that while Facebook was the first choice for a social media site for professional networking, LinkedIn has closed the gap.  In fact, when respondents were asked to choose just one general social media site to use for career purposes, they chose LinkedIn over Facebook, 58 percent to 24 percent.

Additionally, clinicians looking for jobs are spending more time on LinkedIn, while their average time spent job searching on Facebook has dropped. According to the survey, pharmacists and physicians have the highest use rate of LinkedIn, with respective means of 1.6 and 1.5 times per week.

Having a well-established LinkedIn profile is a good move for a job seeker, noted Roger Bonds, executive director of the American Academy of Medical Management. It shows that a person is technologically savvy, and it gives them a chance to show off their credentials and experience. It also gives a healthcare professional the chance to shape his or her own image online.

And employers can do the same, he added.

Physicians use social media less than other healthcare professionals

The survey also noted that physicians tend to rely on social media less than their colleagues in pharmacy and nursing. Just because a physician has a smartphone in the pocket of his white coat doesn’t mean he’s posting regular status updates to Facebook--or posting questions about medical issues and hoping for answers from colleagues. 

The survey found that 31 percent of physicians used social media for professional networking, a decline from 42 percent in 2011.

But that’s not too surprising, noted Harry Greenspun, MD, senior advisor for healthcare transformation and technology for the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.

The average physician doesn’t always have extra time to spend networking on social media platforms. Additionally, the most popular forms of social media don’t facilitate the type of communication that a physician may want to have with other physicians, due to privacy and security concerns. A doctor can’t obviously post details about a patient, a colleague or situation at work on Facebook, said Greenspun.

“We need to find ways to make social media more accessible, to make it easier to exchange more private information,” he said.

There are some secure social media sites designed for physician use, such as Doximity and Sermo. These types of resources could grow, Greenspun said. Sermo claims to have 200,000 licensed physicians in their online community, while Doximity claims to have 220,000 active physician members. Twenty-one percent of the physicians surveyed in the AMN survey said they prefer those sites when asked to choose one healthcare-social media site.

The survey also found that only about 28 percent of physicians reported using social media for job searching.  By contrast, about 43 percent of nurses use social media for the same purpose.

Networking is still the way that many physicians tend to find new jobs, said Bonds. Recruiters and referrals are the top two sources cited by physicians in the AMN survey.

But social media could change that in the future.

“We think social media is going to grow much faster in the coming three years, and it will be as strong a way to source doctors as many of the other ways,” Bonds said. “Right now, it’s still an add-on with doctors. You don’t have to do it to find your doctors.”

Henderson agreed that fewer doctors are inclined to use social media for this type of purpose now, but that the use is still on the rise.

“You can’t ignore it,” he said.

About the 2013 Survey  

AMN Healthcare’s 2013 Survey of Social Media and Mobile Usage by Healthcare Professionals: Job Search and Career Trends was conducted in the spring of 2013.  More than 87,000 nurses, physicians, allied health professionals and pharmacists were invited to participate, and results are based on 1,902 completed surveys. 

Other key findings:
•  Pharmacists are the most likely to use social media in a job search
•  Physicians are the most likely to access the web with a mobile device.
•  44% of the registered nurses surveyed reported using social media for professional networking
•  More than half (51%) of RNs report using for job searches.
•  Of the 85% of healthcare professionals who said they use social media, 55% use it primarily for personal purposes, 19% for personal and professional reasons and 11% for professional reasons.
•  20% of clinicians have opted to receive mobile job alerts, a doubling since 2010; RNs and allied health professionals are the most likely to choose this option.

Download a complimentary copy of the 2013 survey to see the full results.

© 2013. AMN Healthcare, Inc. All Rights Reserved.