By: Pamela Fletcher
Two things remain constant (besides death and taxes.) The power of word of mouth and the expectation of the public to have the best available healthcare. What has changed significantly about these two concepts is the advent of social media – and what a difference it has made! Let’s take a look at how to increase referrals to your clinic every day of the year.
Social media is now the tool of the patient to make or break a health care provider’s reputation. It can also be used by the physician to control his reputation and how he is perceived in the community.
According to a recent Stanford University study, 35% of a users friends see their Facebook posts, with most people averaging 338 friends. Of those posts, over 10% are about a person’s health and wellness, and the most searched for keywords on Facebook are health, wellness, and nutrition. Extrapolate those numbers out by the 850,000,000 Facebook users, and that’s a lot of chatter about health and healthcare!
Chatter that can give a practice a much-needed boost. Many users go to their friends on Facebook or other social media for advice on where to find an excellent chiropractor, a new doctor, or a good dentist. Where once we would ask at a cocktail party, or in passing at the supermarket, we can now ask our friends advice and opinions instantaneously.
Social media is very useful to build and maintain a physician or clinic reputation, but the benefits don’t stop there. Facebook and Twitter is very effective in educating patients and the community, to provide support and conversation, and in this manner, build a medical client-base.
Social media can be used to educate the public about the role of healthcare practitioners and support personnel, but perhaps more importantly it creates a powerful platform whereby the physician can teach them how to care for their chronic diseases and bring together those who may be struggling with the same health issues.
Potential topics of health education may relate to high blood pressure, diabetes, heart-healthy nutrition, home care, hospitalization or advice for professional and non-professional care givers.
Employing social platforms for healthcare education:
- Increases patient loyalty
- Facilitates the ease with which information is disseminated to both patients and medical experts
- Cultivates trust in those seeking medical care
- Increases referrals and streamlines the referral process
- Allows patients to communicate more easily with their health care professional and support staff
- Saves time for both patients and those in the medical field, by pre-screening and answering common questions
- Educates current patients as new information becomes available
- Encourages doctor / patient interface through a variety of methods
In the case of ongoing disease processes, such as heart disease or diabetes, ongoing healthcare education is critically important to the well being of the patient. When ongoing patient rehabilitation is required, social media creates a nurturing support connection, and ready information source for cooperation and affirmation, between doctor and patient.
The key to using social media as a healthcare professional, is to remember that quality is vital. The physician using social media should ensure that the information they share is educational and actionable.
As the amount of medical misinformation on the internet continues to grow, it is important for the physician to act as a voice of reason by striving for accuracy in both coverage and discussion. The ability to share their unique expertise as well as to provide actionable and reasonable advice with the patient and the larger community helps them to build credibility among peers and patients.
People are becoming more inclined to initially go online for medical expertise than to ask their doctor. Not only that, but they are also more inclined to go visit a medical clinic that is present on social media as it offers the consumer a sense of transparency and authenticity of the medical clinic.
How can a medical practice capitalize on the social media culture? While a Facebook or Twitter presence is where you start, the real power is in the word of mouth – or word of media, if you will.
The best way is to first be certain that the medical office is providing a unique, amazing experience for clients. Every interaction should be positive and helpful. Second, encourage the client to like/share/tweet about their experience at every opportunity- signs in the office, at the top of forms, from the receptionist on the way out.
Finally, use social media to follow-up with customers who follow your tweets or like your pages. The better the relationship with a patient, the more likely they are to recommend services.
To truly succeed on social media, a medical office must first succeed in person. But like all word of mouth, social media spreads, and can spread to the best possible advantage exemplifying to all medical professionals, how to increase referrals to your clinic every day of the year.