Gone are the days when patients quietly endured long waiting room times and blindly followed their doctor’s advice. The Internet has turned patients into active consumers who take their healthcare into their own hands. Patients are also turning to social networking and online review sites for information, advice and to vent their frustrations. Patients searching for a general practitioner near them results in scores and scores of pages reveal information, both good and bad, about medical practices and healthcare organizations.
The social media space has become a popular forum for patients to discuss health issues, share healthcare experiences and interact with healthcare professionals. A 2012 consumer survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers revealed as much as one-third of consumers in the United States actively use social media to discuss doctors and health concerns. While this no doubt poses a threat for medical providers, social media can be used as a powerful force in your marketing plan. Providers can use social media to better engage the patients they have and also to attract new patients. In this way, medical practices gain an upper hand when it comes to damage control and building a credible, trustworthy brand.
Creative Ways to Utilize Social Media
Increase Patient Access
It’s not uncommon for patients to have questions in-between appointments with the doctor. These may just be quick questions or situations the patient feels warrant a doctor’s input. Trying to get in touch with doctors on the phone can be difficult considering their busy schedules. In cases like these, social media can help increase patient access to the doctor so patients don’t have to put up with long hold times or wait until their next appointment.
Social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn allow users to create profiles, both personal and professional. You can post helpful information on a profile, such as call-in hours or hours when a staff member is available to answer questions via email or chat. These little conveniences help make it easier for patients to adhere to treatment guidelines and reduce frustration levels.
Marketing Your Practice
According to Pew Research Center, an estimated 44 percent of online users use the Internet to look for information on doctors. Considering the total number of Internet users surpassed the 4 billion mark in 2018, this is a marketing opportunity no practice can afford to miss. The key to a strong marketing strategy lies in joining networks that your patients (and ideal, future patients) are on.
Marketing on social media sites benefits a medical practice in many ways, including:
- Establishing an online brand
- Building your reputation
- Interacting with patients
- Interacting with prospective patients
- Video exposure for your practice
- Obtaining valuable feedback
Establish Yourself as an Expert
While encouraging visitor interactions make up the bulk of what social media sites do, these networks also offer prime opportunities for sharing information with interested parties. Many network users are looking for health-related information, be it on the network itself or on other sites. Posting informative articles about things your patients may be interested in is a good way to establish yourself as an expert and thought leader in your field.
Video marketing on social media sites offers yet another way to post informative content on subjects patients can use. You can present all types of information, from procedure demonstrations to telling stories about how the practice got started. Unlike articles, video offers a more real-world effect that works well when it comes to engaging visitors who are looking for information.
Things to Keep in Mind
As powerful an impact as social media engagement can have on the success of your medical practice, results don’t happen overnight. More than anything else, persistence, patience and time are key to growing your practice online. However, the more active you are on social media, the faster you’ll likely see results. Over time, patients searching for a new physicians office will help display your practice higher up in the results, which is where most online users look.
It’s also important to have a marketing strategy in place that lines up with the short- and long-term goals you have for your practice. Since staying engaged on network sites does require time and effort, assigning this task to a staff member or even hiring a marketing specialist may be a good idea if your schedule is already full.