Healthcare providers at risk to miss opportunity

July 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

Healthcare providers on Facebook

Healthcare Providers at Risk to Miss Opportunity

Published by The Hardwicke Group on August 8, 2011

In any era of technological change, the risk-benefit assessments made by adopters and would-be adopters determines how soon, if ever, the technology is adopted.  Except for diagnostic and treatment technologies, the risk-averse healthcare industry has been generally slow to adopt technology.  This is particularly true for marketing and patient contact.   But hesitation to leverage a powerful tool, such as Social Media, could have devastating consequences for any provider.  Social Media represents one of the most significant technological breakthroughs in the past 30 years because of its psychological and behavioral impact, even on those who don’t participate.  Failure to understand this will someday be likened to failure to understand the power of the x-ray.

When the American Medical Association released its recommendations on the exploding use of Social Media, they were predictably cautious. The report advised healthcare practitioners to routinely monitor their own Internet presence; use privacy settings to safeguard personal information; and maintain appropriate boundaries of the patient-physician relationship when interacting.

“Using social media can help physicians create a professional presence online, express their personal views and foster relationships, but it can also create new challenges for the patient-physician relationship,” said AMA Board Member Mary Anne McCaffree, M.D. Well, every new technology creates challenges.  It also creates opportunities—to reduce costs, improve service, and attract more patients.

In Social Media adoption, healthcare practices are being too cautious and the patients, as well as practices are missing out.  For the sake of patients everywhere, I hope that docs learn from the mainstream media’s resistance to Social Media– which nearly blew up their entire industry.  Let’s use Facebook as an example of how healthcare practitioners can improve the provider-patient relationship, as well as the health of their patients.

  1. Facebook Groups. Did you know that you can form a closed group on Facebook, so that only your patients can view what you post there?  It helps to ensure, if you so choose, that practice resources are dedicated solely to patients.
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  3. Facebook Pages. A Facebook Page is like a mini-website that is rapidly becoming a business essential.  Last year, more searches were conducted on Facebook than on Google—a staggering accomplishment.  If you don’t have a Facebook presence, you really are missing out on conveying your basic business information.
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  5. Facebook postings and information: how you can help your patients.
    • Encourage compliance. People increasingly log on to Facebook on a daily basis.  They check their news feed, messages, and friend requests.  In fact, Facebook messaging has replaced a considerable amount of email activity. Facebook can be a friendly, non-intrusive way to remind patients generally to take their medication, schedule examinations, and take steps in the home to prevent disease.
    • Human engagement and communication. This can’t be stressed enough. With their time stretched thin and a high volume of patients, healthcare providers have greatly reduced that traditional sense of personal relationship with their patients. By using Social Media in a responsible and steady manner, healthcare providers can put a more human face on their practice. Do your patients know your nurses? Do they know you? Regular posting can make them feel like they do.
    • FAQs and education. Any frequently asked questions may also be addressed through regular Facebook updates, “Discussions,” or instructional videos. And when flu season rolls around, or kids go back to school, people need to be reminded to schedule appointments. One of the biggest complaints healthcare providers have these days is that patients are trying to self-diagnose their problems at home online. They don’t have the training or experience and may be looking at untrustworthy sites—all of which can add stress and make their condition (or lack thereof) worse. With Facebook, doctors can not only post new research studies that they deem helpful, but they can suggest the best online research tools and links. A doctor’s influence shouldn’t end in the office; it needs to be in the home.
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  7. Personal referrals and “Likes.” Facebook is the greatest method for word-of-mouth marketing in the world today. When you go to where the people are, where friends are sending recommendations to friends, you are gaining critical exposure for your practice. This is primarily done through the use of a “Like” button, which is the best kind of advertising you can get these days—and it’s free. The more “Likes” you have, the more new referrals you are likely to find. Don’t run the risk of losing your patients to the latest young doc on the block who knows how to network online.
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  9. Patient retention and satisfaction. Facebook is a major avenue for clients to voice both their approval and concerns—helping doctors and nurses improve their practice with a patient-centered approach. As small business owners have already learned, whenever you engage with your clientele in a public forum, usually it only helps to generate a better overall product or experience.

The greatest fear about Social Media is that it can’t be controlled.  Don’t let that stop you from using its power for you and your patients.

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