There’s no doubt social media is currently dominating every corner of the business world, and in healthcare, given the new focus on patient engagement, this form of communication is clearly having an impact.
Those of us who continue to be intrigued by the art form (I like to think of it as an art form because there are no hard rules for participating in the online social scene) we try to engage an audience, carry on conversations with others and do our best to disseminate useful information that will keep the world engaged. What you say and Twitter is no different than what you say in person, except that it has the potential to be heard around the world. But, plainly put, how you portray yourself online or in person is how you will be viewed and judged.
If you say something stupid, there’s a great chance that you’ll be seen as stupid.
For healthcare professionals (for anyone, really), social media is a great way to gain exposure and to attract new patients to your practice. Plus, social media can be a great way to engage your current patients. Social media channels allow you to communicate, and it allows patients a way to contact their physicians and caregivers.
According to EMR Experts, this means that “health and well-being becomes something that patients can think about daily rather than once a year at their annual checkup.”
This is a classic case of in sight, in mind. If patients are seeing your information, there’s a great chance they’re thinking of you of their care.
Social media, as you most likely, is not a tool to simply be ignored. It’s a communication force to be reckoned with because, in most part because patients are already online seeking information about their health and their care. By implementing a program, you’ll likely engage them, so who better than to connect with than their own docs.
Again according to EMR Experts, “By using social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+, physicians are able to keep in touch with the majority of their patients and to provide them with accurate medical resources that they might not be able to find elsewhere online.”
Here’s the good news: it’s easy to go social, and it’s free. The investment you make is time. To establish yourself as a respected source, you have to contribute regularly to your sites. From that point, like you might with your patient portal (link), you can begin to market your site on your practice’s collateral.
Perhaps the biggest question physicians have about social media is what they should post and what type of conversations should they engage in?
Here are a few ideas:
- Provide updates about your practice
- Links to interesting medical articles, studies or news
- Information about health conditions or symptoms
- Asking questions of your community
- Conduct polls about the services you provide
- Discuss trend topics in healthcare and medicine
- Highlight individual physicians and their specialties
To recap, why is social media so important? Because it’s social and you don’t want to be anti-social. Put simply, being social not only serves you and your practice, it allows your patients a direct channel to communicate with you and lets them engage you.
For example, according to a recent HIMSS piece, Social Media for Engaging Consumers, patient consumers can:
- Communicate to their providers;
- Communicate with other patients with similar conditions;
- Find information about their condition;
- Track their health/fitness goals online and share with friends/family/the community;
- Get information from: HIE, public health agencies;
- Find and rate healthcare providers and hospitals; and
- Download, update, merge, store and share their health records.
Engaging in social media allows you an opportunity to engage in more in-depth conversations with the people you are charged with caring for. If for no other reason, direct communication with you patients as a potential opportunity to better engage them is worth any effort you are thinking of investing in a social media program.