What’s social media got to do with it? Getting started with a compliant healthcare social media strategy.

What’s social media got to do with it?  I see patients.  That’s my job.  Sound familiar? The role of today’s physician is ever-expanding and constantly evolving. It’s a role that I would argue benefits from including a social media presence, and physician buy-in regarding social media’s necessity is growing. There’s a revolution taking place online and it’s changing the way healthcare delivery works.

While some in the healthcare world are still stuck in an era where likes, hashtags and followers had very little meaning to a healthcare practice, in 2013, these very same phenomenons can have tremendous impact on practice revenue growth, patient throughput and overall patient care.

There are still lots of questions out there: What platforms should I be on?  Why should I be on them?  What are the do’s and dont’s for physicians on social media?  Am I at risk?  Will it benefit my patients?  I thought twitter was for 20-something  millennials sporting glasses with no lenses?

These are all questions we’ll address over the course of the next few weeks.

Here are some compelling reasons you need a social media strategy from PWC’s April 2012 report: Social Media ‘likes’ Healthcare. From Marketing to Social Business.” 

  • 1/3 of consumers in the United States are using online platforms to find physicians, to find information on conditions and to share their opinions about physicians. This trend is growing.
  • 41% of these consumers use social media to base their decision on where they will go for medical care.
  • More than 1200 hospitals in the U.S. participate in Social Media.

Let’s face it.  Social media use in healthcare is a big grey zone.  It’s complicated.

Today I’d like to focus on PUGTATO’s tips for getting started with Healthcare Social Media.

  1. Commit to being Online. Social media has become an increasingly important part of promoting any business or brand.  With the widespread availability of the internet, you will be googled.  In today’s world, a google search that only shows generic healthgrades.com or vitals.com listings does nothing positive for your practice.  Having a real digital strategy will require more than setting up social accounts and walking away.  It’s not a static strategy and you’ll need to have someone committed to updating it on a regular basis. 
  2. Know your message. Before you start posting online, think about what your practice’s messaging will be and always focus on  HIPAA compliance.  Having a comprehensive idea of what you want your online presence to look like before you start posting is imperative.  Knowing what you should and should not post is also really important.  In 2011 the Federation of State Medical Boards released “Model Policy Guidelines for the Appropriate Use of Social Media and Social Networking in Medical Practice ” to help physicians understand what is HIPAA compliant and what is not.  These guidelines highlight what social media snafus physicians can be disciplined for when using social media.
  3. Choose your platforms.  This might require some assistance from someone like me if your lack of exposure to social media is slim to none.  Here are what I consider the bare minimum.
    • Facebook.  Create a business Facebook page.  This is different from a personal Facebook page.  Here postings will be related to the latest and greatest at your practice and in your field. Facebook offers an opportunity to highlight your providers, helping to build a more personal picture of your practice.  You can share videos and show patients why your practice is where they want to be. In addition, sharing industry stories and hot topics around the diseases you treat helps to build a community with your current and prospective patient base.  A top residency and fellowship still hold great value, but patients want to learn more about the experience your practice will provide for them.  This movement towards a comprehensive patient experience isn’t going anywhere.  In fact, it’s growing, so get on board now!
    • Twitter.  Yes that’s right. You should be on twitter. Recent growth in the conversation around Healthcare Social Media (#HCSM) has spurred physician and institution use of twitter.  Twitter offers real-time opportunities for practices to communicate with their patient community and colleagues.  Using hashtags, you can communicate with those interested in your topics and you can collect data to find out what patients are interested in. Ultimately this data can be used to drive more patients to your practice and improve care. You can host twitter chats that focus on hot topics in your field and you can connect with colleagues around the world to build your online brand’s credibility.
    • Linkedin.  How much do you cringe when that healthgrades.com link that is the first thing to pop up in a google search of your name.  This is an easy fix!  Get on Linkedin.  Not tomorrow, not in a week, today.  It’s easy and can serve as an online resume.  Linkedin has powerful search engine optimization capabilities and allows you to proactively send out the message you want to patients. Don’t believe me?  Google me and see what pops up.   It’s not enough to fill in your name and call it done on your Linkedin profile.  Post a profile picture, list your education, and if you really want to leverage your online presence, fill in a bio.  Here you can link to your other online communities, e.g., twitter and Facebook, which will direct consumers to what you want them to see.
    • YouTube.  Did you know that over 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month? If you’re not on YouTube you are missing a huge opportunity to connect with patients.

Getting started with a social media strategy can seem overwhelming at first. Committing to an online presence will require some time Do you have a digital thumb print?and content must be continually updated.  Most of all, content must be compliant.  I’m not talking about practicing online medicine- that’s an obvious no-no.  I’m talking about building a brand for you and your practice that will lead to better patient care and increased revenue.  Business success and favorable patient outcomes are not mutually exclusive, and there are plenty of leading institutions that prove this on a daily basis.  If you want to see excellent online strategies at work, hop on over to the Mayo Clinic Center for Social MediaMemorial Sloan Kettering’s Visible Ink program or MSKCC’s blog.

Business success and favorable patient outcomes are not mutually exclusive.

Get started today.  You’ll be hitting the healthcare social media scene when in its infancy. Well, maybe healthcare social media is really in the toddler stage.  I think we could make the argument it is going through the terrible two’s right now.  Yes?  You will be a pioneer of growing physician social media use. In 5 years when we look back and digital integration is the norm, you will be an expert in healthcare social media. This competitive advantage will confer long-term benefits both to your practice and patients.

I hope this post on why you need a social media strategy was helpful.  Over the next couple of weeks we’ll talk about how to actually implement these tools. It will be a full gamut of Social media 101: the do’s and don’ts, what the heck a hashtag means, and where to log in for Facebook business pages.  Until then, start exploring!  Try googling yourself and get ready to improve the results that first page of your google search returns with PUGTATO’s social media tips.


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