How Social Media Can Help Your Medical Practice (Connect) Grow
Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that social media is everywhere. And although Social Media is growing like weeds and more people are adopting it, the medical community has yet to embrace it fully.
I think that is a mistake. There is immense opportunity in social media for doctors, but I think many don't really understand the set of circumstances that the web is presenting to us that make it possible to transform the way people view the medical profession.
When I talk to doctors about social media, they tell me that they don't have time or the interest to see what others are having for lunch. And although I agree that there is some of that on Facebook and Twitter, there is another side of Social Media that is informative, engaging, practical and efficient.
The other excuse is time. Which is a valid excuse, but I would argue that having a social media presence actually saves you time.
Dr. Natasha Burgert, a pediatrician in Kansas City and a prolific blogger, said in a guest post on PediatricInc.com not too long ago that questions she is asked repeatedly, like "how do I cart solid food?" can be answered completely by directing them to her site. She said that this practice saves face-to-face clinic time allowing for more specific concerns about the child.
These tools are giving us the opportunity to go beyond the four walls of our practice and engage parents. We can now share information, connect with patients and their relatives, and allow parents to interact with the practice in more ways than ever before.
Below are a few things that can help you get started.
- Create a website: I know, this is simple one, but most of the doctor’s website I’ve visited are lame. If you haven’t updated your practice’s website in 3 to 5 years, it is time you do so. Take a couple of hours and surf the web. See what you think is cool and what draws your attention. Then go back to your site and evaluate it. Does your site seem inviting compared to others? Does the site answer basic questions parents ask when deciding on a pediatrician? Is there an opportunity for web surfers to interact with the medical office using the site? What if somebody wants to send an email, is there an easy way for them to do so?
- Start a Blog: Starting a blog is a great way to bring patients/parents back to the site. It is also another way for patients to get information about new vaccines, benefits of certain treatments, do’s and don’t, promote preventive wellness and even promote upcoming events such as flu clinics, school and sport physical seasons among many others things.
- You don’t have to give medical advice on your blog, but you can discuss things like why it is important to put sunscreen on your child in the summer months or how watching too much TV increases children’s chances of obesity. Blogs are easy to set up and in some cases, free.
- Join and Learn Twitter. Twitter is hard to explain. You almost need to try it out first in order for this recommendation to make sense. Check it out at twitter.com. You can also check our practice’s twitter feed at http://twitter.com/spediatrics or @spediatrics to get an idea of what we are doing with it.
- Here is the thing about Twitter, doctors sit on a lot of information, but they usually don't get too many chances to share that knowledge with others outside of the examining room. But doctors, as we know, are trusted sources of information. With Twitter, all the doctor has to do is post short posts (or tweets as they are called) on what has your attention.
- Twitter can be used to inform patients and parents about different events, tips, healthy living among other things, but faster than a regular blog.
- Video: Video on the web has also taken off recently. As more people have broadband at home, streaming an online video is not very difficult. Producing a video and publishing it is also very easy. In fact, if you have a camera, a computer, and internet connection, you can post a video to the web very quickly and free, by the way.
- Sites like YouTube.com now come with features that allow you to embed your video on your site. So let’s assume one of your doctors wants to dispel some of the myths about vaccinations and Autism. Conceivably, you can shoot a video, uploaded to one of the video hosting sites, embed the file to your website and your done. Now patients can get information directly from the practice, as opposed to Dr. Google.
To get an idea of how effective this can be, take a look at this video http://youtu.be/azxpCM75NOU
- Facebook: Facebook allows you to set up a community for your patients. Most people use Facebook to keep in contact with friends, family and old acquaintances. But it also works for keeping in-touch with your patients. For example, if one of your doctors recently made a speech, you can share updates and pictures of the event. You can also share articles, links and resources on it. Like Twitter, you can inform patients/parents of different events as well as ask for feedback. For example, ask your “fans” what they think about the new office, the new policy you’ve implemented or their thoughts if the practice starts charging for telephone calls. To check out our Facebook page click on the this link: http://bit.ly/4AAmNj
Fundamentally social media is all about connecting with people. Social Media tools can be used by business looking to expand their contacts or keep in touch with current customers. Likewise, medical practices have a unique opportunity to not only expand their patient base, but more important, stay connected with patients/parents by utilizing web-enabled tools to enhance the relationship between the doctor, the patient and the practice.
So what can you do? Where do you start? I'd suggest not to jump in all at once with everything out there. Pick one or two things and go from there. Learn the medium, study what others are doing and then create a game plan.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on Social Media and how medical practices can embrace these new tools.
(This blog was originally posted on http://pediatricinc.com/)
Brandon Betancourt is a business director for a pediatric practice in Chicago. He is a speaker, consultant and blogger. You can follow him on Twitter @PediatricInc or visit his blog at PediatricInc.com