Social media and the Internet have drastically changed the way we communicate in today’s world. Many people no longer prefer to connect face-to-face or even over the phone, but rather over social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
In regards to healthcare, social media and the Internet have also become a vital source of information for patients and families. People search for answers from others and from online resources to come up with their own diagnosis, remedies, etc.
So if this is how patients are communicating, why aren’t more medical practices utilizing social media?
Medical practices understand that with all communication methods, utilizing social media for patient communication can have some obstacles. However, medical practices should see social media as an opportunity when used correctly and understand how to overcome these obstacles.
Here are some social media obstacles seen by medical practices that can be avoided, revolving social media into a great patient communication opportunity.
Like all communication methods, social media can run a risk for medical practices. Many medical practices avoid social media for fear of violating regulations such as HIPAA. The solution to this issue is simply to utilize social media as a mean of informational communication.
Patient communication does not necessarily have to be specific or a diagnosis, as patient information should never be shared over social media. Medical practices can utilize social media to spread information about good health, general health tips or information for upcoming events, such as flu clinics.
With an already busy schedule, many doctors and medical practices do not see that they have the time to manage social media as well. By ignoring such a popular communication platform this could be a large mistake. Patient retention and patient satisfaction rely on patient communication. If a patient feels ignored or is not finding the answers they need from their doctor or medical office, they will find the answer somewhere else.
Medical practices that utilize social media are giving their patients another way to communicate with them. Even if the conversation is not able to continue over social media, a quick post to a Facebook page or a response to a patient’s tweet takes a very short time and could go a long way in patient satisfaction.
Ultimately, some medical practices look at social media and ask themselves if it is worth it. According to a recent article, many healthcare providers are finding the benefits outweigh the costs. Medical practices are finding that blogs, YouTube videos, Twitter feeds and Facebook are useful in addressing common questions and maximizing patient communication.
Dr. Alice Ackerman, a pediatrician and college professor from Virginia Tech University, explains that after a year of blogging she had an average of 4.5 readers per day. One day, however, a reader sent her the following tweet –
“Dr. Ackerman is the person who changed my mind once I read her blog and her links. I had no idea that info existed.”
For Dr. Ackerman this tweet proved that her social media use had benefitted at least this one person and that alone was enough to outweigh the cost.