Statistics say that nearly 80% of US adults use the Internet and approximately 60% belong to at least one networking site. Even though healthcare providers are aware of the rising use of social media by patients, many are still reluctant to embrace it.
Opportunities brought by online platforms represent a new frontier in medicine, as it enables physicians and patients to be more connected. While some physicians are reluctant to use social media because they do not know exactly what benefits and wonders it can do for their practice, others are hesitant about taking their practice to the digital world at all.
Many physicians refrain from using online channels for communication because they fear patient privacy violations. But the fact is, ignoring social media isn’t going to help. It’s here to stay and an increasing number of patients are now using it to make their health decisions. Your absence on these online channels will clearly pave an easy way for your competitors who have already taken to social media to engage and interact with their patients. Though it’s extremely important to be vigilant about patient privacy while interacting online, it shouldn’t be a limiting factor for physicians. The American Medical Association suggests that while using technology and discovering better ways to build up a physician-patient relationship, physicians should be mindful to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of patient information under all circumstances. If used in the right way, it can be a milestone in building up a physician-patient relationship.
People are increasingly expanding on the habit of discussing healthcare with family and friends on social media. This change in consumer decision-making patterns has acted like a catalyst for the online presence of healthcare providers and hospitals. According to a study published by the Journal of Medical Internet Research, nearly 95% of US hospitals are on Facebook and 50% have a Twitter account. More and more hospitals, healthcare providers and health authorities have opened accounts on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to reach and target potential patients.
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Social media is an excellent tool to build relationships with patients and the general public. All social media channels have their own unique style of communication that facilitates exchange of information and dialogue among patients, providers and other healthcare professionals. On social media, health information can be presented in modes other than text. For instance, YouTube is extensively used to share health information on treatment options, medications, complementary alternative medications, symptoms and diagnoses. People also share their personal stories stating how they were diagnosed with a particular condition or disease and how they dealt with it. Informative infographics, short videos, presentations and graphics are other forms through which health information can be shared with audiences.
Social media has made it possible for physicians to educate their patients, be available for them for any communication, share their expertise, generate new appointments and make their practice more visible to those who need their services. It’s no longer a matter of choice for physicians to embrace social media for marketing their practice. Your online reputation will be created through reviews, posts, tweets and comments by people regardless of your online presence. It’s better to embrace social and integrate it into the DNA of your practice to be in control of your own online presence and reputation.