Dr. Howard Luks – the MDigitalLife Interview

Posted by: in MDigitalLife, Medical Communications, Social Media Insights & Trends on January 18, 2012

Howard Luks has a lot of titles and roles.  MD.  Orthopedic Surgeon.  Chief of Sports Medicine and Arthroscopy. Advisor. Digital Strategist. Chief Medical Officer.  But the role that got him started in social media was “human being.”

“Humans are innately social, health is social; healthcare is not social”

– Howard Luks


I won’t bore you with the statistics about people using social media to connect with each other, work in community and collaborate.  Unless you’ve been living under a rock (in which case you can’t read this anyway), you know ’em all.  So suffice to say that Dr. Luks didn’t come online to talk about medicine – he came to connect.  But it didn’t take him long to connect the dots and recognize that he could use some of these same social tools to talk to his patients.  And so began the transformation of what Dr. Luks calls, “Howard 2.0.”

The first step in that journey was to start “leveling the playing field for patients.”  We at WCG have noted that most health data on the internet is garbage – in fact, more than 90% of blog posts mentioning a drug are from spam sites.  Howard saw that too – and decided to do something about it.  He started to create real, relevant, quality content for his patients online at http://www.howardluksmd.com/.



Website Welcome Video from Howard Luks on Vimeo.

The average doctors’ appointment lasts 18 minutes, and nearly half of patients can understand what they’re told about their diagnosis and treatment … a percentage that Dr. Luks feels goes even lower when the diagnosis a serious one.  His goal is to “surround sound” his patients with high-quality, relevant information.  He keeps a PC and his iPad available in the exam room to show patients videos and articles during the appointment.  Even more interesting, he has created custom handouts for patients that include links and QR codes to make it incredibly easy for those patients to access the right information between appointments.

“A lot of doctors don’t like to search for information during an appointment, fearing that it will make their patients uncomfortable.  But with nearly 6,000 articles published every day, there is no possible way that a doctor can keep up with every study that exists.  And I’ve never had a single patient who was bothered by the fact that I didn’t know everything.”

– Dr. Howard Luks

As you can see from even a cursory review of his web site, it’s clear that Dr. Luks has gravitated to video as an effective means of patient communication.  This makes sense on a lot of levels:

  • Most adults consider themselves to be visual learners, and process information most effectively through visual means
  • It’s easier and faster to produce for Dr. Luks

But it has a side benefit that he didn’t initially consider: It’s drawn more (and better) patients to him.  What makes a patient “better?”  When there is trust between a patient and physician, the relationship simply works better and more effectively.  And because new patients are able to see Dr. Luks on video before they come to visit (and his videos are always casual and unscripted) they feel that they already know and trust him.


From Dr. Luks:

Healthcare and Social Media: The ROI is Real, but the Message Matters


“Credentials only go so far.  New patients who’ve seen my videos don’t sit at my desk thinking, ‘Gee, can I really trust this guy?’  They are already comfortable enough that they can hear, listen and understand from the first moment.”

– Dr. Howard Luks

The more success Dr. Luks saw with his patient-focused content, the more physicians started getting curious about how to build their own digital presence.  When he hears social media “experts” talk about Doctors not participating online because of privacy or security concerns, he doesn’t buy it.  “I’ve talked to thousands of doctors,” he says, “They get it.  They see a need [to engage digitally], but they don’t know how to do it.”  In order to meet that growing need, he’s recently started a new blog: Tactical Social Media Guidance.  There is plenty of information available about what doctors can’t do online.  The focus for this blog is on helping docs to understand how to do the things they can.  It’s a powerful distinction, and it’s gaining traction.  When I asked him why it was so important for him to invest his scarce time into an initiative focused on other doctors, it came back to the patients again: With all of the lousy health information out there, Dr. Luks knows he can’t redress the balance all alone; he needs to have thousands of doctors who are sharing what they know.



“Doctors need to have a clear online strategy.  Who’s your audience online?  What is it you want them to know or do?  What bandwidth are you prepared to invest in achieving your goals?  Going online without thinking through those basics is worse than not going online at all.”

– Dr. Howard Luks


From Dr. Luks:

Planning Your Healthcare Social Media Presence: Your Digital Footprint, Part II


Dr. Luks is a member of several online social networks: Doximity, Sharecare, Healthtap and OrthoMind among others.  Dr. Luks believes that much of what happens between doctors in online networks needs to take place behind a firewall – and must not be anonymous.  Anonymity, he believes, tends to lead to flame wars early and often – and results in being a waste of time.  Interestingly, OrthoMind, while it has only 5,000 or so members, makes up a very robust percentage of the orthopedists in the country – and as a result, has proved to be a really good place to discuss issues that go beyond the clinical.  Those discussions – important for doctors to have – cover issues like health policy, insurance reimbursement and malpractice … all subjects that doctors would tend to shy away from in a true public forum.

It’s hard to say where Howard 2.0 is going to go next, and the Tactical Social Media initiative for docs is likely to take up a lot of bandwidth in the near future, but one thing is clear: Dr. Luks’ primary focus is helping his patients, and always will be.


Some folks on Dr. Luks’ Reading List:

Dr. Natasha Burgert: http://twitter.com/#!/DoctorNatasha

Dr. Bryan Vartabedian: http://twitter.com/#!/Doctor_V

Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson: http://twitter.com/#!/SeattleMamaDoc

Dr. Ves Dimov: https://twitter.com/#!/drves

Dr. Kent Bottles: https://twitter.com/#!/kentbottles

Phil Baumann: https://twitter.com/#!/philbaumann

Angela Dunn: https://twitter.com/#!/BlogBrevity

Thomas Lee: https://twitter.com/#!/tmlfox

Eric Glazer: https://twitter.com/#!/Ericglazer

Dr. Steven Mora: https://twitter.com/#!/myorthodoc

Jody Schoger: https://twitter.com/#!/jodyms

Dr. Ted Eytan: https://twitter.com/#!/tedeytan

Lee Aase: https://twitter.com/#!/Leeaase

Dr. Mark Ryan: https://twitter.com/#!/richmonddoc

Nick Dawson: https://twitter.com/#!/nickdawson

Faisal Qureshi: https://twitter.com/#!/Faisal_q

Tim Sturgill: https://twitter.com/#!/symtym

Dr. Ryan Madanick: https://twitter.com/#!/ryanmadanickmd

By: Greg Matthews

Greg Matthews is the the creator and Managing Director of the W2O Group's MDigitalLife - Understanding, Engaging and Activating Physicians in the Digital Age

Find me on: Twitter
Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on Amazon.com! http://amzn.to/bAmvFN. Join the conversation #precommerce.

0 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

Some HTML is OK


(required, but never shared)

or, reply to this post via trackback.