Throughout the technological age we are currently living in, the advances in medical technology have gone far beyond what was once considered possible. Thanks to the introduction of the Internet and smart phones, information has become more readily available then ever before. Social media platforms have also made it possible for us to personally connect with people across the globe. These advances have shaped the way medical field has stored and held information. Medical providers are increasingly realizing the advantages of switching to electronic heath records (EHRs) as opposed to traditional pen and paper patient records. EHRs allow patient records to be more readily available, allowing for better office efficiency and patient relations.
The Old: Provider-centric EHR Software
However, patient convenience is still a factor within EHR technology that needs improvement. In today’s society, it has become the expectancy to be able to find information on the go at the touch of our fingertips. This is especially true when the information they are in search for is relevant and relates to them. Unfortunately, EHR features have become focused on billing and coding, as opposed to being more patient centric. This is a result from physicians being typically paid based on the exams and procedures performed during an office visit. Physicians need their software to document complex billing codes to ensure they’re properly paid.
It’s Time for EHR Software to be Patient-centric
It’s time EHR vendors stride towards the next evolutionary step to becoming patient-centric. This problem can be solved by following the lead of an outside innovator in sharing and viewing information about individuals: Facebook. Facebook is the front-runner for social media platforms, and their results show. Facebook is the fourth most valuable brand in the world; so clearly, there is something about this technology and interface that people appreciate.
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.