Has your office jumped on the social media bandwagon yet? Does your practice have a presence on Facebook, and does each member of the team have a profile on LinkedIn? Are you tweeting regularly? If you’re shaking your head and thinking, “Yeah, right, like we have time for that,” we hope this post will illuminate some of the benefits of investing time and attention in social media.
Some practices that have adopted social media as part of their overall marketing plan are finding the tools to be useful for attracting, engaging and educating patients. Others have found that the networking associated with social media helps them increase their visibility, strengthen their position in the community and showcase the services they provide – for free. Still others use their LinkedIn community for recruiting new physicians and staff.
Before you launch into developing a social media campaign, however, take a look at your practice’s website as a starting point. Depending on when you initially launched your site or when you last updated it, it might need to be freshened up in terms of content or design. If part of your social media strategy is to drive more traffic to your website (and ultimately drive more patients to your door), then having a quality site that provides value and is easy to navigate is critical.
Once your website is spiffed up, set up Facebook and Twitter accounts and then – here’s the most important thing – use them regularly. Here’s just a sampling of the types of things your practice can communicate using social media:
- We’ve recruited a new doctor or staff member
- We’re expanding our office hours, or changing our hours for the summer months
- It’s not too late to get your flu shot
- We’re now a preferred provider for XYZ insurance company
- Dr. Martinez received an award from his professional society last week
- We’ve update our computer system so that you can now make appointments via our secure website
- Join us in congratulating Dr. Smithers . . . she had her baby last night
- We’re sponsoring a free seminar on weight loss at the local hospital next week
When using social media, it’s important to be mindful of patient privacy so that you don’t get into HIPAA hot water. Use the same common sense measures when you communicate in the digital world as you use in the real world. Never post names or images of patients, don’t attempt to make complex diagnoses digitally, and be careful about how much you reveal about yourself on both the practice Facebook page and on your own personal account page. Doctors can and do communicate with patients using e-mail and social media; they just have to be smart about how they do it.
We hope you’ll consider using social media in your practice, if you’re not already doing so. It’s estimated that more than 80% of patients look to the internet for health and healthcare information. Your willingness to have a digital presence will benefit both your practice and the patients you serve. And don’t forget to “friend” and “follow” the Medical Arts Press team on Facebook and Twitter . Let’s stay connected!