Forty percent of people use social media to find reviews about medical treatments and physicians, and an even greater majority turn to the Internet for answers to health-related questions. It is no surprise, then, that healthcare organizations of all shapes and sizes are jumping on the social media train, using networks like Facebook and Twitter to promote their services and educate patients.
Even small physician practices stand to gain from social media interaction, despite their patient communication and marketing efforts being carried out in a much more scaled-back way. This is due to the fact that patients appreciate their doctors’ attempts to become more accessible, and they embrace the ability to engage in conversations about their health.
Whether your practice chooses to start small with a single profile on one social media network or go big with accounts across multiple platforms, here are three areas in which social media outreach can help you succeed:
1. Connecting with colleagues. If your practice isn’t associated with a larger healthcare system or network, social media sites such as LinkedIn and Doximity can be a great way to make contacts and to expand your referral base. In fact, through social media, you can connect with other physicians in your community and build relationships with those who have similar interests and approaches to patient care. This is a great way to find trusted specialists to refer your patients for specialty care. It can also be a tool for sharing medical knowledge and seeking advice.
2. Establishing authority. Approximately 80 percent of adults go online to research their health conditions and options for treatment – and you want to make sure the information your patients are looking up is correct. What better way to do this than by providing the information yourself? By establishing a social media presence and by using those platforms to provide relevant health content to your patients, you can set yourself apart as a reliable source for information and build trust with your patients. Your social media efforts don’t have to be aggressive – you just have to be present and provide content that your patients can use.
3. Engaging patients. Social media is a great way to get patients more involved in and excited about their health. It can improve health and wellbeing in your community while making healthcare more interactive and fun. To introduce change on a wide scale with minimal effort, you can use your Facebook page to promote a health goal or challenge. If one month you want patients to focus on eating less salt, for example, you can post low-sodium recipes, share links to articles about the consequences of salt consumption and engage patients by asking what they’re doing to decrease their sodium intake. Patients like sharing their stories – both success and failures – and social media is the perfect outlet to do so.
Does your medical practice have a social media strategy? Tell us how you have used it to engage patients and improve your practice’s success.
Amanda Guerrero is a writer and blogger specializing in EHR, health IT and meaningful use. She has a special interest in patient engagement and using healthcare technologies to increase patient involvement in their health. You can follow her on Twitter at @meanusenetwork.