According to a recent study by the American Osteopathic Association that surveyed 2,204 American adults, “54% of millennials and 42% of all adults either are or would like to be friends with or follow their health care professional on social media.”

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This may be surprising to some in the medical field who have yet to venture into the world of social media. While hesitant to join the explosion of platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter in the past due to grey areas under HIPAA and FDA regulations, doctors now have a better understanding of how to tow the line for incredible connections, new business, stronger patient communication and building a better medical brand. They are embracing social media and understanding it to be an effective tool for sharing important medical information.

Here’s why your medical practice or hospital should consider a healthy social media presence:

Introducing Your Practice On Social

Choosing Familiar Faces

Much like the resurgence in loyalty for the local mom and pop restaurants or retail businesses, patients looking for physicians or healthcare facilities are attracted to the idea of a familiar face. In that regard, social media acts as the ideal bridge to connect patients to their current or potential physicians. How can this be done? Introduce staff members, humanize them in a light that is uncommon for an industry known for being sterile and cold. Doing so will help to build both trust and loyalty to a particular physician or practice as a whole.

Promoting Positivity and Recognition

Unfortunately in today’s world of instant everything, instant negativity is also a possibility. More times than not, people only review companies to complain, often casting the attention on the few instead of the majority who enjoyed their experiences.

In the medical industry, this too is common, which is why it’s important to diligently work to promote positive events or experiences with each doctor or office.

Ways to do this include:

  • Highlighting a recent award or notable recognition on social channels.

  • Capturing referrals or testimonials, specifically on video to use on Facebook or Instagram stories (all with the written consent of the patient, of course.)

  • Use social channels to share patient success stories.

Educating Patients

While there’s no doubt that social media is overwhelmingly used by a younger generation, there should be no surprise that baby boomers (and sometimes older) are embracing it, as well, to stay in touch with family, view entertainment and find information on topics relevant to them. In fact, a study by Mature Marketing Matters showed that “43% of baby boomers are starting to leverage social media for healthcare-related information.” If 43% of the most hesitant or technology challenged generation is utilizing social media to learn more about health concerns, it’s likely that their generational successors are tenfold.

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For medical professionals, this provides an incredible teaching opportunity via social channels to inform their patients while also working to stand apart as an expert in their field. Using social media to inform and educate patients about new cancer treatments, FDA drug and procedure approvals, infant safety, and much more allows doctors to connect with their patients through the convenience of a mobile, laptop or desktop device.

Specialty Audiences

There are no shortages of diseases or handicaps in our world, and unfortunately, when dealing with these particular issues life can feel lonely. Thankfully, however, the Internet provides access to people around the world fighting similar battles through forums, social pages and private groups, such as Facebook and LinkedIn Groups.

For specialty physicians or practices, this is a rare opportunity to connect with their target audience and help close the gap with patients, provide expertise and education or simply to show unity during challenging times. For social channels that utilize hashtags- which is essentially all of them at this point- it allows you and your audience to connect and follow specific threads or topics together. Take for example the #TTC (Trying...Conceive), which can be used to find/link an entire community of women with infertility issues aiming to connect with/support one another. Other examples include: #EndCancer, #GetYourBellyOut, #ScoliosisStrong- all bringing together and empowering patients and their families to join in the conversation.

Platforms To Use

Similar to other industries, not every social channel will be appropriate or useful for connecting patients with their physicians. It’s fairly obvious that LinkedIn is popular with medical professionals but more for networking amongst colleagues, healthcare providers and pharmaceutical companies. While Instagram is widely popular for lifestyle, food, interior design- it’s becoming more and more popular and effective in the healthcare space. Physicians, hospitals and medical practices are finding success one picture at a time by posting captivating photos and videos of procedures, patient testimonials (with consent of course), before and after shots - all with the goal of educating followers. The same effective strategy can be applied to Facebook- every practice should have an official Facebook business page for search engine purposes- and make sure you’ve taken the necessary steps to verify your business with Facebook. Just like Instagram, Facebook provides a physician or medical practice an opportunity to educate and connect with patients.

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One area of social media where physicians should remain cautious is accepting friend requests from patients. Some larger healthcare organizations have policies in place prohibiting or discouraging their employees from connecting with patients using their personal social accounts. It’s always wise to check with administration on social media policies regarding online presence and staff interaction.

Other platforms such as, YouTube and Twitter are quickly becoming more relevant as long as they stay within HIPAA guidelines. Twitter is effective by tweeting out stats, interesting medical facts or inspiration in 280 character bursts throughout the day- including relevant hashtags.

And finally, thanks primarily to the fact that “video is king” online, YouTube has become a mecca for people looking for information on illnesses and their treatments. YouTube provides surgeons a platform for patients to watch procedures, which is beneficial in providing education and an understanding of what to expect for those waiting to undergo similar treatments.

No matter how a practice chooses to get started on social media, the most important step is to get started. Still, we understand that most doctors and health care providers have less time than others to spend hours posting and engaging on social media- let alone optimizing their accounts for the most visibility. While some may choose to go at it alone, it’s recommended to utilize a marketing firm has the tools, experience and knowledge to successfully position a physician or practice front and center with their community and patients- all the while remaining HIPAA compliant. Hint Hint….MOXY Company. :)