As recently as a year or so ago we probably couldn’t offer a post about the many and various ways that doctors were using social media tools in their medical practice marketing. Outside of the Innovators and Early Adopters, not much could be reported. At best it would have been a short article.
But the digitally connected community is constantly expanding. And by our rough estimate, online and social media in healthcare is well into the Early Majority slice of Everett Rogers’ Technology Adoption Lifecycle. Healthcare providers—doctors, medical practices, health systems, hospitals and many others—are increasingly using social media tools to connect with patients, friends and professional colleagues.
In a previous article, we wrote about healthcare providers falling into three broad camps. At the time, we saw Early Adopters (then a small group), the Sideliners (a large, wait-and-see bunch), and the Not-Me Group (also small in number). It’s clear that the “sideliners” are rushing on to the playing field. Especially, it seems, from the primary care crowd.
An excellent update report about this shift was offered recently (online, of course) by US News & World Report Health News: How Doctors Are Using Social Media to Connect With Patients. Twitter, Facebook and many other social tools are becoming as common as stethoscopes, smart phones and iPads for primary care and private practice doctors.
“Social media,” according to the article, “makes it easier than ever for patients and physicians to connect outside the exam room.” And as one doctor puts it, "It creates a vibrant sense of community and a wonderful back-and-forth dialogue."
On the patient and prospective patient side, there’s little doubt that the public is open to this channel of communications. “About 20 percent of patients already use social media to glean healthcare information, according to an April survey by the National Research Corporation.” (We suspect the number is even larger.)
The medical doctors and healthcare marketing professionals are finding new and creative ways to use social media as an agent for patient engagement, education and connectivity. The full US News article highlights several useful tactics. (Hint: How might you creatively adopt these ideas?)
The family physician, for example, who posts smoking cessation resources for fellow physicians and patients. Then there are “virtual birthday celebrations,” photos and videos of newborns, and real-time alerts for patients (when appointments are running late) and timely or seasonal reminders (such as flu clinic hours or asthma updates).
Then there’s one doc’s annual fitness challenge (via Facebook) with weekly updates and participant photos of stair climbing exercise and progress report. "People posted their numbers, and they kept getting higher and higher, up to 72,000 steps. The sense of competition was very motivational."
Social media tools in healthcare marketing are an increasingly useful means for patient and provider to interact. What can you add to this list of ways to use social media? Do you have a unique or unusual way of building relationships? We’d like to hear from you, and we’ll publish the best ideas in a future post.