We’ve been talking a lot recently about how staying current with updates in technology is important for your practice (emailing and texting patients, using online scheduling, offering digital intake forms via IntakeQ, etc.), and that also rings true when it comes to social media.
Social media can be a little controversial when it comes to healthcare. Since medical care is inherently personal and sensitive in nature, some believe that it is not appropriate or secure content for public consumption on a digital platform.
However, in today’s age when patients are taking more control over their health and wellness, social media can be a beneficial platform—both for the patient and for practices.
Even in 2012, the social space was on the rise among patients. According to a Pricewaterhouse Cooper study of over a thousand U.S. adults, one-third was already using social media platforms to help conduct health discussions.
Using social media as a tool to connect with your current patients and acquire new ones, stay on top of trends, and market yourself or practice as a thought leader in your field can greatly affect your bottom line.
Patients & Social Media
Social media is a connection builder. It gives users a voice, and allows them to interact with others and share parts of their lives.
This is true for healthcare practices as well.
By using different social platforms to stay in front of and in touch with your clientele, you’re able to remain top of mind, relay information, and potentially grow your customer base.
By coming off as relatable and approachable, your practice’s staff has the opportunity to make an uneasy patient feel more comfortable leading up to an appointment.
Whether you use Instagram or Facebook to share photos of life events (maybe an employee recently got married or had a baby), extend holiday wishes, or show your team participating in a community event, it allows your patients to get to know your staff on a more personal level. Just be sure to have everyone’s permission before sharing!
Giving a new client an inside look at your office or the friendly faces they could be seeing might make them feel more welcome and relaxed.
You may be offering a new service, welcoming a new practitioner, or want to share a patient testimonial (with proper written consent, of course). Your social media accounts provide the perfect opportunity to share news with your patients.
Also, if your office is closed for a holiday, staff-wide training, or inclement weather, how can you let patients know? This can be particularly tricky if you take walk-ins—you don’t want them driving to your office and arriving to a locked door and no answer.
Even if your office is appointment-only, patients could be looking to contact your office with a question, or to schedule or change an appointment.
By encouraging your patients to follow you on social media and sharing a widespread message in these instances, you can reduce confusion and frustration by delivering real-time updates.
Since social media platforms provide the opportunity for two-way communication, using your accounts to answer (appropriate) questions allows you to maintain engagement with your patients. Just keep in mind to take any personal or sensitive conversations offline.
It’s also a great way to display unsolicited, positive reviews in the comments section. If a patient has a good experience, they may be inclined to mention it on one of your posts, which then will be visible to your other followers.
But what should you do if someone leaves a less-than-stellar review on your social media account? Check out our previous article, When You Should Respond to Bad Online Reviews of Your Practice?, for helpful guidance.
In addition to staying in contact with your patients even when they aren’t in your office, through social media you can also position yourself as a thought leader in your area of expertise.
Maybe you have new tips for flu season, want to share a new article that outlines the do’s and don’ts for before and after a procedure, or are trailblazing a new treatment. Whatever the case, sharing fresh and valuable content can help give you credibility with your followers—and even attract new ones.
We all hear about things going “viral”—our co-worker sends us that funny dog video or a particularly time-sensitive meme seems to pop up everywhere—and it’s just a fancy word for something being shared over and over again on the internet.
Infographics tend to be popular because they are visual, informative, and easily shareable. This makes them great for distributing helpful information and guidelines—especially in the healthcare industry.
Not sure where to get started? There are many online tools available that can help you make a useful, visually pleasing infographic.
And, who knows? It may even go viral!
Aside from connecting with patients and posting your own content, social media offers the opportunity to follow other accounts that pertain to your industry.
Since social media provides the space for a more fluent, current narrative in comparison to typically stagnant websites and white papers, practitioners can gain quicker insight into new devices, clinical trials, and cutting-edge procedures and services.
As outlined in this Forbes article, “Eighty-eight percent of physicians and other healthcare providers use social media and the internet to research medical devices, pharmaceutical information, and biotech data. Just like professionals in other fields, doctors can use social media as a tool to reach out to other specialists. They can explore the social media pages of pharmaceutical companies and device manufacturers. They can even follow the blogs of other practitioners to learn more about their experiences.”
That’s a pretty beneficial tool to have (literally) at your fingertips.
Remember earlier how we were talking about giving patients a taste of your office culture to help make them feel more comfortable? The same also works on potential employees.
Showing personality, welcoming faces, birthday celebrations, or events outside the office can relay that your practice embodies a fun, collaborative environment where someone would want to work.
On top of that, if you have a particular need to fill (maybe a front office assistant, bookkeeper, or technician) you can share a job description across your social media channels. Even if one of your followers isn’t the right fit for your opening, they might have a relative or friend who has the perfect background.
In this manner, you are literally using social media to grow your practice!
Taking on the responsibility of running a social media presence—whether your practice chooses to start an account on one platform or multiple—can be no small feat.
It’s important to have a strategy (how often to post, types of content, goals, etc.) so you can more effectively and efficiently use your participation to grow your practice.
You can make it a collaborative effort among your staff, or choose one employee who seems to have a knack for digital—just so long as everyone involved clearly understands the practice’s social media policy and the strict HIPAA regulations in place.
Need help when it comes to social media and HIPAA compliance? Check out our past article, 5 Ways to Stay HIPAA Compliant When Using Social Media.
You also want to closely monitor activity on your profile pages so you can properly handle any necessary edits or comments that may arise.
Taking on the project of building and maintaining consistent and thoughtful social media accounts for your practice can certainly feel cumbersome. After all, you’re busy doing your job.
However, recognizing the ways that social media can help benefit and grow your business—and working towards those goals—could potentially help increase your client base, staff, and standing within your healthcare community.
And, most importantly, don’t forget to have some fun with it!