An active social media presence is starting to become mandatory across many different industries, especially as more leaders realize its potential for improving services and attracting clients. Even the healthcare industry, which is notoriously slow at adapting to new technologies and communication tools due to fear about violating HIPAA rules, is starting to jump onboard the social media train.
Doctors are beginning to use Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to interact with patients outside of the office, collect and disseminate helpful medical information, and generally set up a stronger presence in people’s daily lives. Here are some specific ways that doctors are using social media to get ahead and help patients around the world.
With 40% of consumers using social media to find reviews of treatments and physicians, these platforms are a great way for doctors to expand awareness of their practices and attract new patients. Social media allows physicians to reach people who aren’t even aware they exist, expanding their reach past word-of-mouth and insurance referrals.
For instance, many doctors post patient testimonials and connect with other referring doctors on their Facebook or Twitter pages, supplying social proof to convince potential patients of their practice’s quality. This is especially helpful in regions with few to no large hospitals, making the responsibility of finding a physician fall on the patient. Patients can hop on Facebook to see who can help them – and the fact that Facebook offers page analytics means that doctors can figure out what type of content best attracts these patients.
Social media also allows doctors to manage their reputations more effectively, an essential part of marketing their practices. By getting involved online, physicians can essentially control what patients see about them; with all of the physician rating websites out there, doctors have the opportunity to respond to negative reviews and set up an active web presence to drown out those trying to damage their reputations.
In a way, this all comes back to branding: instead of sitting back and letting others control their brands, doctors are able to use social media to craft their image and have some control over the conversations reviewers are having about them online.
Connecting with Patients
Along with seeing what patients are saying about their practices online, doctors can use social media to support patients outside of the office. 60% of doctors report that social media improves the quality of care they deliver to patients, for multiple reasons.
For one, social media allows doctors to see what their patients are thinking, doing, and even eating; this allows them to better serve their patients’ needs. They treat their relationships with patients as a two-way street, using platforms like Twitter to interact with and learn from the people relying on them for medical care. If a doctor can see that a patient is a member of an online support group for people with a certain illness, posts a lot of photos of unhealthy food, or other health-related information, the physician can better cater to that patient.
One thing physicians need to be careful of, however, is preserving patient privacy – which can be difficult to do online. They have to refrain from giving personal medical advice or reveal any patient information online due to HIPAA concerns. It’s impossible to guarantee online anonymity, so personal questions should still be answered during doctor’s office visits.
With about 20% of patients using social media to get healthcare information, it’s important that physicians work to make sure they are receiving accurate, up-to-date material to avoid inaccuracies and potentially harmful effects. Since anyone can post practically anything online, doctors use social media to post credible articles to combat misinformation.
There is plenty of health-related information online, but not much of it is doctor-created content. Instead, many popular sources of this information can be less than credible, coming from common people who believe that they’ve discovered the next big remedy for an illness. To fight against this, most physicians post links to news and journal articles, credible online resources, and research studies for patients, other doctors, and the general public to educate themselves with.
In this way, doctors are doing their part to use technology to fight against the spread of inaccurate – and potentially deadly – health information.
As tricky as HIPAA can be, and as difficult it can be for older doctors to get social media savvy, physicians’ participation on social media websites helps them, their patients, and the general public. How else do you think doctors can use social media to aid themselves and others?