There continues to be a great deal of talk about the need to marketing a medical practice to patients as a way to engage patients and build a loyal patient following.
However, the strategies that practice leaders can take to engage those they serve seems somewhat elusive.
With Meaningful use reform continuing to bear down and patient engagement ever more important because if it, I decided to ask a few readers of Electronic Health Reporter what tactics they would take to encourage practices to market their practices and, ultimately, engage their patients.
Here are a couple of the responses I received:
Susan M. Tellem, RN, BSN
Physicians need to market their practices using free and easily accessible practices. For example:
Blogging – Content is king. “Tell patients about your new ‘whatever’ and add tags to the post that expands its potential reach. Ask for comments. Re-purpose the content on Facebook, Twitter, you practice website and you have reached your universe.”
Use Facebook – 51 percent of the world is on Facebook. “You can share photos, videos, patient before and afters, conduct surveys, ask questions, hold contests (through a third-party platform) and ‘promote’ the posts. That means for a very small amount of money, you can reach beyond the people who ‘like’ your page to their friends who are like minded and gain new followers and more patients.”
Use Twitter – It’s fast and easy, and you can say what you want in 140 characters and even post photos!
Create email newsletter – “You have an entire email database in your office that is going to waste. Send out a newsletter about what you have to offer. Use it to conduct surveys, promote discounts, special events and new procedures.”
Vicki Radner, MD
Likewise, Radner says. “Get social! Social media can and should be part of each physicians’ marketing plan. Create a blog post, Facebook entry and a tweet that describes your practice and its technology in a client-centered way. For example, ‘Want more control over your medical story? Sign up for the patient portal.’”
Clearly, social is king. I’m not surprised. Each of the responses I received were similar in nature. I would recommend the same approaches to anyone who asked because they are effective and because they are free.
In the current market, we go where those we want to serve are and we capture their attention by informing them, educating them and engaging them. Social media does just that and with a little premeditated thought, a marketing campaign can be quickly and easily implemented.
Like all things done for the first time, there may be some excitement and some fear. This is perfectly normal. Practice and repetition will help, ad in the beginning, while you are building your campaign you’ll be able to practice.
Something else to consider when creating a marketing campaign for a practice is to find people who are conducting successful campaigns and start to follow their example. There are real leaders already doing great things as far as educating and engaging patients. Do a little research and find people you can relate to then use their strategies to build your own program.
I’d love to hear more strategies for marketing a practice to patients. If you feel like sharing yours, feel free to leave a comment below.
I heard a stat recently that it would take eight years to view all of the videos loaded to YouTube each day. With such a volume of content flooding the market, it makes sense to have a plan.
Social media isn’t such a new phenomenon and it absolutely has an impact. As far as patient engagement is concerned, many say it’s one of the only ways to draw patients into the fold; especially important now, of course.
According to a new post from ClickZ, a marketing news site, almost 90 percent of all businesses are utilizing some sort of social media effort (I think that number is a bit high), but it’s very obvious that not as many of these campaigns are even remotely as impactful as they could be.
Establishing a successful program takes a little practice and patience, and probably a little luck. It helps, though, to identity mistakes and to try your hardest to avoid them.
Here are some of the biggest, courtesy of the folks who know at ClickZ:
Not having a plan. No matter the business sector or the business, you have to have a plan. The plan includes strategic objectives and, well, planning. Simply opening some accounts and posting your thoughts isn’t a plan. Plans include goals, and goals are something you work toward and attempt to measure. Just posting any old thing typically doesn’t produce anything of value and, therefore, is pretty much a waste of time.
Not optimizing content. Don’t simply post the same content to all of your social sites. It will grow redundant and bore your audience. According to ClickZ, you have to optimize your content. If you don’t, “You’ll end up with content that isn’t right for the medium, and people will start to ignore you. Take a few extra minutes to customize your post for each medium.”
Posting whatever comes to mind. Don’t simply write whatever comes to your mind and throw it on the web for the world to see. This seems pretty intuitive, but it’s a good reminder that there are often boundaries, especially in healthcare. Think about what you want to write, try to make it interesting and relevant. Think, think, think.
Forgetting not to show not tell: I quote directly from ClickZ. “Stop telling people what you want them to believe about your business and start showing them.” Show them with reports, videos, blog posts and observations. ‘Think about your key value proposition and point of difference, and figure out how to show people via social media.” Good point.
Are you boring? If you don’t have a “voice” and come of as un-insigthful, chances are, you’re boring. “Think about how to make your message interesting to your audience: compare it to something else; use a picture or video; find a more relevant way to share your angle. Just stop being boring.”
Losing focus. Stop trying to speak everyone’s language. Reel it in. Focus your message and stick to your strong points. You know what you do well, why you’re an expert; it’s time to focus speak your mind, but speak of the things in which you know well. Speak your mind, and speak your heart, but stay on point.
With these tips, and your best practices, there’s a good chance you’ll develop an engaged audience.
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.
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.
As we move toward an environment in which technology is more widely accepted, there’s little doubt tools that organizations like hospitals and health systems (individuals, too, for that matter) use to build their brands, educate their communities and engage patients are paying dividends.
At least for the organizations taking steps to utilize the tools.
According to a new survey by CSC (Computer Sciences Corporation) conducted in July and August, of 36 hospitals, the use of social media in the space is growing, and having some positive effects on the communities each serves.
In the survey, hospitals reported using social media to enhance their brands, create awareness and manage their reputations, as well as “to promote wellness and healthy behaviors through the dissemination of generic information for a general audience.”
CSC found that for organizations, direct engagement with individual patients remains uncommon and only one hospital reported that it uses social media in care coordination or care management, unlike some individual caregivers who actually use the tools to engage patient populations with generic care instruction or knowledge transfer.
Healthcare organizations, like all of us using social media, want to attract a large audience to our message and products. However, using social media for improved patient outcomes were not a popular objective according to the survey as less than 25 percent of organizations listing it as a primary objective.
Only a couple hospitals survey said they did not use social media at all, citing fear of liability or malpractice concerns, and concerns that users would post negative comments about the organization while some organizations do not get involved in social media because they do not feel they have the internal expertise needed to drive the program.
Now the real heavy lifting begins.
According to CSC, “The next step for hospitals and health systems will be to use social media more strategically. The risk and cost of doing so is relatively small, yet the upside includes potentially substantial performance improvements and the realization of sizable competitive advantages.”
Beyond building brands and managing messages, healthcare organizations may wish to think about more their products, long-term goals like driving patient engagement and improving healthcare outcomes.
To take action and begin moving a social media and engagement program forward, CSC recommends the following, and I quote:
Develop an overarching strategy of how to make social media work for you. Begin with easy areas, such as marketing and communications, proceed to patient education and announcements, and then look for ways to leverage social media to improve care and generate other benefits. Look for ways to connect patients to providers, or providers to each other.
Get involved in social media now at whatever level you feel comfortable with and/or have the resources to manage (do not take a wait-and-see attitude or it will be too late and your patients will find someone else to interact with). It is often possible to recruit savvy users internally who are excited about the technology
Pre-empt possible negative experiences by communicating openly about social media with employees and with patients. Develop a social media policy that outlines appropriate use for staff, and post a disclaimer on your site informing patients that information provided is not meant to serve as medical advice. Social media is a force for good; concerns about the use of social media are often overstated. Individuals are more likely to share positive health-related experiences via social media than negative experiences.
We’re here now, we’re ready and the tools are available to serve the greater good. It’s time to engage, damn the consequences.