Engaging patients though social media platforms is a great way for practices and healthcare organizations to build trust and provide information. Proper precaution must be taken thought due to its nature it can spread a mistake just as quickly as a great story or image.
There’s no question that social media is rapidly expanding. It has quickly made its way into the healthcare industry and is changing the way in which providers and their patients interact. Social media provides a foundation for the industry to benefit from positive patient feedback and build a trusted group of supporters who can help build and maintain confidence in the healthcare services.
Social media sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook appeal to the masses with their quick and informal style. Companies no longer have to rely solely on the mass communication of print, radio, and television. This is something that the healthcare industry needs to take advantage of. It’s quick, easy, and inexpensive. Why not use it? The healthcare industry is one that is often viewed with skepticism. Red tape and a lack of transparency have created a negative image for these companies and social media can be used to help fix these perceptions.
It can engage patients and help recognize flaws in order to improve the popular opinion. The Mayo Clinic, for example, has embraced the social media world and is using it to their advantage. Their website states that they “will be the authentic voice for patients and health care professionals, building relationships through the revolutionary power of social media.”
Consumers are increasingly relying on the information they find on the Internet. A recent Pew Research Center study stated that 35% of American adults have used the web to solve a medical issue. According to another survey, nearly 90% of adults between the ages of 18-24 would trust the health information they found on social media. If patients are using social media, then their healthcare providers should be too. What better way to interact than through a medium that is guaranteed to reach people?
Many hospitals are not adequately prepared to use social media effectively. Larger hospitals usually have the resources to address comments in a timely manner but small hospitals, which tend to be more abundant, are still playing catch up on developing a plan for social media. Most larger hospitals pay for social media monitoring tools but there are free social media tools available for the hospitals on a tighter budget. These tools can be used to address both positive and negative feedback.
Although beneficial, social media can be damaging if not used appropriately. Fortunately, there are ways that healthcare providers can immediately address these problems. Once a mistake is identified, the provider needs to act quickly correct it. This maintains the level of trust between the patient and the practice. Mistakes can spread quickly online and can damage the reputation of a healthcare provider. The provider needs to also be careful to avoid using social media to communicate with patients on sensitive issues. Even private messages can be harmful and lead to distrust and confidentiality discrepancies. To avoid a crisis, the etiquette of using social media should be discussed and laid out beforehand.
Through these social media tactics, a healthcare provider can create an environment that is safe and beneficial for both their company, and their patients.
Author: Lauren Daniels