By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
Technology makes the Internet pervasive in American society, and social media is practically a national pastime. Easy to use smartphones and tablets empower the individual—people of every age group—anywhere, anytime. “Mobile” is the watchword of Internet marketing and the primary platform for SM users.
Physicians and other healthcare providers have been quick to adopt techno-tools for their personal and professional communications. But until fairly recently, doctors and hospitals have lagged behind retail brands in adopting social resources to tell their story, point to useful solutions or to engage patient-centered audiences.
That said, the healthcare industry—including pharmaceutical and device manufacturers, health systems, hospitals and doctors—are increasingly finding ways to (comfortably) use social media for the benefit of patients, the general public and professional colleagues.
And as a result, social media is changing healthcare:
- Patients are better informed as healthcare consumers
- Barriers to reliable online health resources and information are reduced
- Consumers are more likely to have and use at least one health app
- Patients take a more active role in their own health decisions
- Adults are likely to exchange personal health information and experiences via social media
- Doctors say social media improves the quality of care delivered to patients
- Social media educates and informs both physicians and patients
- The healthcare system is more transparent regarding outcomes, cost and value
- Greater trust follows positive relationships between patient and provider
- Social media supports brand recognition, and organizational and individual reputation
- The time and distance shrinks between doctors and remote or isolated consumers
- The benefits of provider work for patients in need is highlighted through SM
Social Media’s Major Benefits and Opportunities…
In today’s digital-driven environment, embracing social media is a business and marketing must-have for healthcare. It’s neither a single-source answer to everyone’s needs, nor is it a panacea for instantly driving new business to your practice.
However, the appropriate mix of online SM platforms—and their proper use—has become a fundamental tool to reach, engage and attract empowered consumers effectively and efficiently. Practical experience demonstrates that the high level benefits and opportunities for healthcare providers includes:
LISTEN: Social media is an open channel to the needs and interests of patients and prospective patients. To properly shape “what you have to say,” it’s critical to listen to “the voice of the customer.” The entry point to an active dialog, and an ongoing relationship, is recognizing what’s important to people as they reveal the services they want.
INFORM: Physicians are in a position to become a trusted source for sharing reliable (and sought-after) medical information. And, as patients, family and caregivers are inclined to use the Internet for unguided research and self-diagnosis, doctors can filter unreliable less reliable information and direct patients to reliable sources.
REPUTATION: It’s important to recognize that the public often has little or no awareness of a practice or practicing physicians, even for credentialed and experienced doctors who are esteemed by their professional colleagues. Social media is a proactive means to establish and manage reputation and public awareness.
PATIENT EXPERIENCE: Thoughtful and ongoing interaction with patients, family members and prospective patients can reveal areas of service and satisfaction or the need for improvement.
PROFESSIONAL EXCELLENCE: Savvy physicians also use social media tools to connect with colleagues, referring physicians, and other professionals to enhance their skills and medical knowledge. They can exchange notes about medications and side effects. And they have the ability to track thought leaders in their specialty, to weigh in on important issues, and for recruiting or retaining staff.
Social media has changed the way businesses relate to customers. It has also become a primary means for healthcare providers interact with the public to engage and attract new patients as part of an overall marketing plan. People buy from people that they know, like and trust.