The following is a guest post by Barry Haitoff, CEO of Medical Management Corporation of America.
No doubt social media has become an integral part of many of our lives. We use it in our personal lives and if we don’t use it personally, our children are using it all the time. With nearly 800 million daily active users on Facebook and nearly 300 million monthly active users on Twitter, most medical practices are asking how they could benefit from having their practice participate in social media.
Before I begin with the specific benefits of social media use, I should define how I’m using the term social media. In this case, I’ll be talking about social media in the broadest context. Certainly this would include platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Google+. However, I also include healthcare focused websites like Health Grades, Angie’s List, ZocDoc, Yelp, and many more in this list. Each of these websites or mobile apps has a social aspect to them which allows the practice to engage with patients online.
Now let’s take a look at some of the benefits your practice can receive from your participation in social media.
Be Part of the Discussion – The reality of the internet is that your practice is being discussed online whether you participate or not. Many of the social media sites listed above have already created your profile and patients are talking about their experience at your practice. While you may wish that this wasn’t the case, it’s something that you can’t stop.
Given that you can’t stop patients from posting information about their visit to your office, it really benefits your practice to keep an eye on what’s being said about your practice on these social media sites. If someone posts something nice, that’s an opportunity for your practice to show some gratitude for their kindness. If someone posts something negative, that’s an opportunity for you to show some compassion even when difficult situations arise.
When a negative physician review is shown compassion, understanding, and a willingness to help, it turns a negative into a positive for your practice. Now instead of driving patients away from your practice, a sincere interest in helping the disgruntled patient will drive new patients to your practice who realize that you care about your patients. Of course, if you’re not taking part in social media, that negative comment will remain and discourage patients from ever visiting your office.
First Impressions – One of the first impressions many patients get about your practice is on your website and your social media presence. While it’s not the end all be all for how patients select a doctor, being an active participant in social media shows potential new patients that you’re a progressive organization that stays on top of the latest trends. If you’re not on social media and/or your website looks like it came out of the 90’s, many patients will wonder how well your practice keeps up with more important areas like clinical skills. Right or wrong, we draw these connections between a practice’s online presence and their ability to stay up with the latest medicine.
Engage Current Patients – Social media is a great way for your organization to engage with your current patients. One of the largest sources of new patient referrals comes from existing patients. A simple follow on Twitter or Like on Facebook creates a powerful connection between your practice and your patients. That connection then serves as a reminder to your patients of the services you provide. You’ll be surprised at the serendipity of social media. Your social media post on back pain can often arrive in the same stream as one of your patient’s friend’s complaint of back pain. Now you just gave your previous patient a simple way to refer their friend to you.
Promote High Margin Services – This doesn’t apply to all specialties, but many specialties have high margin services they can offer patients on a repeat basis. Other specialties can remind their patients of annual visits. Social media is a simple, scalable way to inform and remind patients of these high margin services. With the right set of followers, a simple tweet that says “Women, take care of yourself! Don’t forget to get your annual pap smear.” can be a really effective way to drive more patients to your practice.
Local Social Media – One challenge medical practices face is that the majority of their patient population is local. Social media and the internet by its very nature is a national and international tool. However, with the integration of GPS into every phone and location enabled web browsers, the websites and tools to target local people are amazing. Do a simple Twitter search for “back pain” and add your location and you’ll find a captive audience of people with back pain near you. Here’s a simple example I found in NYC. Once you find these potential patients, you can easily follow or engage with their tweet.
Learn from Others – While much of this list has been about driving more high quality patients to your practice, social media can also be an excellent way for doctors, practice managers, billing staff, etc to learn from their peers. You can find a community of peers on social media that are focused on pretty much any element of a medical practice. Many of them are posting amazing content which can help you learn how to do your job better. Plus, as you engage with your peers on social media, you create relationships which can be leveraged to get answers to difficult questions. Not to mention, you’ll receive the satisfaction of helping other people and developing deep friendships with amazing people. Social media is a font of knowledge just waiting for you to tap into it.
In the next post in our series, I’ll look at the tools, techniques, and social media platforms you should use to help you realize the benefits mentioned above. Are there other social media benefits I missed on my list? I’d love to hear how you’re using social media in your practice and the benefits you’ve received from it.
Medical Management Corporation of America, a leading provider of medical billing services, is a proud sponsor of EMR and HIPAA.