Many area residents know Michael Sevilla, M.D., as a friendly and caring family medicine physician affiliated with the Family Practice Center of Salem, Inc. Others know him as a member of Salem Community Hospital's medical staff, where he has assumed a number of leadership roles, such as past chief of staff and current Clinical Informatics Physician Advisor.
However, Dr. Sevilla's scope of influence has moved far beyond the reaches of Northeastern Ohio. According to a variety of national publications, such as Medical Economics, Healthcare IT News, FierceHealth IT and various internet blogs, he has emerged onto the national social media scene as one of the top physicians in the country. He is listed by several bloggers as being one of the most influential doctors across the country, who are changing the landscape of social media.
Dr. Sevilla maintains an active blog, tweets, podcasts and posts videos online. And the driving force behind it all is his belief that family physicians should take advantage of social media to share their message with their patients, community, and their legislators. Dr. Sevilla says that doctors in the family medicine specialty have a lot to gain from being active members of the social media community.
"Using social media is very important, in my opinion, to help tell our story," Dr. Sevilla wrote in a blog post last year. "For too long, I believe that we, as a specialty, have let others define who we are. Social media has a chance to change that and can also help correct health misinformation on the Internet."
Family Medicine Blogger
Launching his first blog in 2006 as "Doctor Anonymous," Dr. Sevilla wrote about his observations about healthcare and anecdotes about what it means to be a family medicine physician. The blog featured posts, photos and videos that he made, as well as footage from his many local TV appearances on WKBN. In 2007, it was recognized by FoxNews.com as a medical blog to follow.
Although his "Doctor Anonymous" blog earned national recognition, Dr. Sevilla decided to change the focus and he became the blogger behind FamilyMedicineRocks.com. Dr. Sevilla is known for being an advocate for physicians on social media, all while giving blog readers a behind-the-scenes look at life as a family practitioner. He also hosts Family Medicine Rocks on Blog Talk Radio, where he reviews current industry trends and health news; along with sharing links to his health- related television interviews at MikeSevilla.TV.
Dr. Sevilla's popularity on the national social media scene has created a high demand for him as a much sought after speaker. In July, he presented to a standing room only crowd at the American Association of Family Practice's National Conference in Kansas City, about the topic of Social Media and Social Justice Advocacy. Dr. Sevilla has also spoken about social media to other organizations across the country, such as the "Connecting Healthcare and Social Media" conference co-sponsored by The Mayo Clinic in New York in May; and the 2011 American Academy of Family Physicians Annual Scientific Assembly in Orlando, Florida. "It's something I have a passion for," Dr. Sevilla said.
The Connected Patient
The Internet has become a major source for obtaining health information. According to a recent article published in July 2012 by Pew Internet Health Research, 80 percent of internet users look online for health information, which represents 59 percent of all U.S. adults.
Although Dr. Sevilla is an online pioneer among community-based physicians, he is just one of many doctors who have ventured online to social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, to reinforce a positive doctor-patient relationship.
"Whether physicians are on Facebook and Twitter or not, the reality is, their patients are," Dr. Sevilla said. "Why not be proactive about it and take the position that we want to help our patients use these media better? Otherwise, they may be getting bad information."
Other social networking sites have gained popularity before it, but Facebook has emerged in the last two years as the dominant personal social networking site for Americans of all ages. It is the second most visited Web site in the country behind Google, according to Alexa Internet, which measures Web traffic.
Facebook allows users to register as a personal user, or as a business/organization. Although the layouts and content of both types of pages are similar, the business pages allow other users to "Like" a physician's practice rather than be "friends," as they would on a personal page.
"When patients register on Facebook and click the button that says they 'Like' your practice, they will receive all the messages that you post to your page, which Facebook calls your wall," Dr. Sevilla added. "In other words, if a physician wants to share news-such as new office hours, physician information, services, or health reminders-that message automatically appears on the home page or news feed of Facebook users, who have said they 'Like' your practice. The content is more personal than an advertisement or a mailing and may be more likely to be seen by the user and it's free.
"Our patients changed the landscape of social media long ago. Those who do use the Internet have been very receptive to seeing their doctors online, and reaching out to them through social networking sites is expected to become even more popular."
Dr. Sevilla has come a long way from when he was blogging on the Web anonymously, and now focuses on "bigger-picture" issues related to medicine and social media trends. "It's been really gratifying," Dr. Sevilla concluded. "When I get an email or message from someone in India or somebody else across the world 'liking' what I'm doing, that really shows me how small this world is and the impact I can have on people who aren't even in this country."
Michael Sevilla, M.D., is a Family Medicine physician affiliated with Salem Community Hospital's medical staff and the Family Practice Center of Salem, which is located at 2370 Southeast Boulevard in Salem, 330-332-9961. His website is www.MikeSevilla.com.