How can social media benefit your medical practice?

Tierni Martins Tips and Information

Reasons to Use Social Media

The following are good reasons to consider using social media to connect with patients:

  • Better communication methods
  • Better outcomes
  • Empower patients with knowledge
  • Better inform patients to connect with them and build trust and confidence
  • Branding to differentiate your practice from others
  • Can reduce staff time and allow for fewer interruptions
  • Increase productivity effectiveness
  • Collect more money from patients
  • Allows you to maintain relationships with patients and colleagues
  • Starts a dialogue with patients and gives you a voice
  • Promotes and fosters a sense of community
  • Can provide realistic expectations of treatment

Content Ideas

There is a wealth of information you can share with patients to improve the doctor-patient relationship:

  • Office policies
  • Printed educational materials
  • Surveys
  • Contests
  • Donations and giveaways
  • Inclement weather cancellations
  • Compelling patient stories
  • Introductions of staff members and other providers within the practice
  • News of procedures or techniques
  • New services
  • Immunization and vaccination information
  • Fundraisers
  • Celebrations

Types of Social Media

Most Common

Website – This should be your primary method of connecting with your patients and providing information about your practice. Be sure to name your site something that patients can easily remember and access and don’t forget to list it with search engines.

Email – Emails allow you to communicate patient appointment reminders, birthday wishes, promotions, surveys and more.

Texting – Texting can easily allow you to let patients know about delays and inclement weather cancellations. You can also remind patients of appointments. Texting is a good communication service to provide patients with, but is often overlooked.

Facebook – Facebook allows you to communicate with patients online in a simple format. A facebook page can be easily updated quickly with a few words directed toward page fans (patients). It’s a great way to connect with patients who likely already use facebook to communicate in other meaningful ways with friends, family and businesses. In fact, facebook is quickly becoming a preferred method of staying in touch with others.

Newsletter – You can provide patients with information about your latest company gathering, clinic information, a new service or product, education information and more. Newsletters are an effective tool and you can provide them monthly, quarterly or annually. It gives you a way to reach out to your patients and stay connected.

Blog – Blogs are used to provide information in an editorial or opinion type format. Many physicians subscribe to blogs to stay informed themselves or they use them to provide information to patients in addition to a website.

Less Common

eBook – eBooks are electronic versions of information where there is too much content to provide in a basic document. They can be used by practices to provide patients with follow up care info or options regarding surgery. The point is, they can be easily accessed by patients through your website and they provide information you want to share with patients.

Email – Emails allow you to communicate patient appointment reminders, birthday wishes, promotions, surveys and more.

Wiki – A collaborative website which can be directly edited using a web browser, often by anyone with access to it. Wikis can be used for practices that want to provide a lot of varied content to their patients that can be easily searched and presented.

Flickr – Practices can use Flickr to store photos that you want patients to be able to access. This can be especially advantageous to physicians that use photos to show before and after pictures.

YouTube – Some doctors are using YouTube to demonstrate information and education to patients. It’s free and extremely easy to use. Physicians can create a YouTube channel for communicating with patients and easily link to Facebook or a website. A study published in August 2010 by Forrester Research found that the public has come to expect online videos. They can be used to demonstrate procedures and post-op care using props and models.

Twitter – This is a “micro-blogging” method of communication. You can user Twitter to recruit new providers, share information, market and connect with patients.

Before You Say No

Everyone has heard stories about medical practices that do not have internet access in their office. In today’s environment where patients want to connect with healthcare providers in a more meaningful way, it’s really not an option to ignore social media as a viable method of communication.

It’s understandable that you might fear your staff may abuse internet access or worse, waste your time when they should be working. Set some ground rules on when and how your staff can use the internet. You may be surprised by their ability to connect with others for support and information about billing and coding. That could lead to your staff becoming more efficient and productive at collecting your money. You can and should monitor staff use of the internet. Setting boundaries for staff internet use and communicating your expectations will help prevent abuse.

If you don’t have a website, why not? Potential patients can’t find you without one and your current patients can’t learn your expectations without you providing that information to them. You can alleviate a lot of timewasters by providing all the relevant information online that your patients need to know. They will become good patients in the long run. You’ll collect more money and your current patients will know what to expect. And, you’ll build trust and confidence as well. It’s a win-win for your practice.

Plan Ahead

Dedicate a particular person to spend one hour a day to get started. Formulate a plan and incorporate a website if you don’t already have one.

Add at least one to three additional social media methods of communication as you go. You don’t have to implement everything at once, but you need to implement some of these methods to compete with other practices and to improve your overall practice and patient outcomes. It’s something you can work up to.

Conclusion

Using social media to connect with patients is reasonably inexpensive or free in most cases. It shows patients that you’re capable of and interested in using new technology and provides you with several alternative methods of communication.

Patients already use this type of technology and they want to communicate with healthcare providers in meaningful ways. Social media allows you to connect with patients in the simplest ways and allows you to build trust and confidence while improving the doctor-patient relationship.

You can find all kinds of information available to tweet, post and blog by also using these technologies yourself.

Professional associations, like AMBA, provide a lot of information to members they can in-turn share with others.

You can and should use all of the social media methods we discussed to teach your patients to be good patients. And, if you improve communication, your office will run more efficiently. Ultimately, this will benefit the doctor-patient relationship by building trust and confidence.

Resources

Sources

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