Until recently, big and famous hospitals were leveraging social media to market their facilities and to attract new patients. Now, doctors have also started establishing themselves on social media networks because these online platforms provide easy and effective ways to reach out to new patients and connect with existing patients outside of the exam room.
Fortunately, doctors are finding an easy audience on social media. According to a study by PwC, nearly one-third of customers use online forums and social media networks for health-related matters. While most patients read the comments and experiences of fellow patients in order to gain mental support, they have greater trust in the advice of medical practitioners that they find on social media.
Most doctors use their social media profiles to provide health-related news and general updates. Some physicians also post patient success stories and testimonials to market their services, while keeping HIPAA guidelines in mind. A lot of physicians are of using their social media profiles to directly engage with patients due to privacy concerns and stringent HIPAA laws. Such practitioners usually encourage patients to make private appointments to discuss their specific issues.
Despite the privacy concerns, some innovative doctors are always looking for interesting ways to engage patients through social media efforts, such as polls, birthday and anniversary wishes, one-on-one conversations, and much more. Some doctors are also trying to send real-time appointments alerts and reminders which is seen as a valuable service for time-pressed patients.
Benefits of engaging patients through social media
While the social media offers many advantages, the biggest one is its ability to attract new patients. Social media acts like an amplifier, and strengthens your message across channels and potentially reaches those wider audience. Social media is especially effective when it comes to gathering patient testimonials and reviews. It can work wonders in enhancing the reach of your online reputation.
The doctor-patient relationship is a two-way street, and social media provides the opportunity for both parties to speak, listen, and understand. Through social media, you can embrace the opportunity to educate and interact with your patients, and help them manage their health.
However, just a word of caution. Never disclose any patient’s personal information on social media. Do not offer any medical advice or reveal patients’ identity online. In order to avoid HIPAA violations, think of your online interactions as communicating with your patients in an elevator. What you would never say in an elevator, do not say on social media.
Take the first step to protect your online reputation and request your Online Reputation Assessment.
Effective ways of connecting with patients
The key to connecting with your patients through social media is understanding which social media network can be used for what purpose. For instance, your medical practice’s Facebook page can be used for posting health-related updates, office holidays or events, sharing informative links. On the other hand, your LinkedIn profile should be limited to blogging and marketing efforts. By doing this you can keep your accounts organized and easy to update.
Educating your existing patients and informing the wider public an important aspect of social media engagement. You can achieve this by sharing your own work, directing people to experts who can provide more information, and promoting general health literacy.
However, always check the quality and accuracy of information you are sharing with your audience. This will ensure that they get only what is useful for them.
There are a variety of ways that healthcare practitioners are utilizing social media to promote their services and enhance patients’ experience. Here are the top ways doctors are using social media:
- Share useful information: More of the patients search for health information online, but they often find unreliable resources. Your social media page should provide patients the ability to access relevant information quickly. You must look for innovative ways for sharing general yet critical information such as reminders for flu shots, tips to avoid a cold, etc. Sharing news regarding health hazards is an effective way to provide useful information to patients. You can also consider providing updates on new procedures, introduce new staff, share generic pre- and post- surgery care information, and provide latest updates related to your practice.
- Encourage participation: In order to promote participation from patients, you can consider ending your posts with a friendly suggestion to comment. You can also ask relevant questions or post thoughtful remarks that encourage patient participation. It is advisable to keep your questions open-ended and relevant to your practice. You can also ask your patients to share their stories regarding their experience with your practice. By allowing patients to share their experience, you will most likely attract positive reviews to your social media page. Patient engagement is one of the proven benefits of social media. By gathering patient feedback, you will not only demonstrate that patient satisfaction is your priority, but you may also learn important facts about your practice.
- Create communities: The ability to create communities among patients is one of the most recognizable opportunities offered by social media. Almost every social media platform leverages shared interests to bring people together in an online space, where they can feel more comfortable sharing stories. Providing an online community where your patients can interact with both the practice and fellow patients allows them to connect on many levels. It also can give patients the opportunity to open up, something they may not feel comfortable doing during a face-to-face interaction. Building communities can help patients come together with others who are experiencing similar symptoms.
- Respond to feedback: A strong two-way communication between physician and patient is critical to the success of any medical practice. Practices that with patients through social media networks enjoy higher loyalty and quick recovery time. You must search for your practice mentions on platforms like Twitter and Facebook and respond to patient reviews, whether positive or negative. Your concern will make patients feel like they are heard and their opinion counts. Once you have addressed their feedback, you must let patients know about the improvements and thank them for offering feedback.
- Building patient satisfaction: Social media holds a lot of promise in enhancing patient satisfaction due to improved communication. The overall presence a medical practitioner might have on a patient’s Facebook Newsfeed will go a long way in making the patient feel cared for and involved in his healthcare. Through involvement in various healthcare campaigns and seeing daily health tips, patients will feel empowered in maintaining their wellness. Social media can also play an integral role in developing a sense of trust in your patients for your medical practice. This is because once you are active on social media, your patients will ask you questions and seek your advice. Be sure to answer their concerns in a polite, professional and timely way, and they will look forward to your input. This is one of the best ways to earn their trust. Even if you are not able to answer all the questions, just the fact that you are acknowledging their issues will show you care and are paying attention.
- Use images and videos: Social media marketers are increasingly using pictures and videos in their campaigns. Visuals have greater appeal and stand-out better and are proven to have greater engagement. The visuals are likely to catch a patient’s immediate attention. According to studies, visual data is processed 60,000 times faster by the brain than text, and content with visuals can get 95 percent more views than those without visuals. Therefore, you must use visuals to convey your message to your target audience. Keeping HIPAA guidelines in mind, you can publish before-and-after shots of patients.
Although social media may not be the best option for all practices, the advantages it offers are worth considering. Negative reviews are inevitable. Being actively present on social media will give you the opportunity to be part of the conversation and try to address and resolve the problem. If you decide to pursue social media, you must make sure to interact consistently and accurately. Social media is an extremely powerful platform that allows doctors to position themselves as an expert in their specialty. Now is the time to build up your social media network and show your patients that you are not only an expert in your specialty, but also in terms of the way you communicate with patients.