Increasing Reasons to Engage Patients Through Social Media

Increasing Reasons to Engage Patients Through Social Media

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Social media is more than social, especially when it comes to making health-related choices. More and more consumers are turning to platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and  YouTube  to help choose health care providers. As a result, hospitals, physician offices and clinics are successfully adding social media and blogs to patient communication to share information and stories; both of which are powerful ways to reach, interact and engage new patients through outreach, helpful medical advice and the organization’s latest news.

According to a poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs research, 6o percent of respondents said they trust doctor recommendations from friends or family; far fewer trust quality information from online patient reviews, health insurers, ratings web sites, the media, even the government. Patients use social media to connect with each other and caregivers in several ways:

  • reading blogs written by other patients, writing blogs themselves
  • sharing stories on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter
  • creating online forums to connect patients with patient advocates

The American Academy of Family Physicians' (AAFP) cite a study which found more than 70 percent of primary-care physicians and oncologists use social media at least once a month to explore or contribute health information. There are four basic media strategies you should use: 1) have a purpose; 2) post timely, relevant content; 3) engage; and 4) avoid oversharing.  This can be done through creation of original content, sharing of information from credible sources and online surveys/polls of those engaged with your content platform.

One hospital which has tapped into the power of digital relationships is Dayton Children’s Hospital, which was recently highlighted by Google for using web tools to help mothers find accurate health information using Google’s AdWords, Analytics and mobile applications (apps). It features the Dr. Mom Squad, comprised of four women who are doctors and mothers who blog. Their posts are shared on the hospital’s website and across its social media channels,. The goal is to reach moms seeking health care information for their families using Google searches.  Each post includes highly targeted words and phrases uncovered through AdWords and Google Analytics, tying into those being frequently searched. The hospital also utilizes mobile applications, which has increased web traffic from mobile devices by 123 percent.

MaineGeneral  Medical Center promoted its new $312 million Alfond Center for Health only through two online channels: Facebook and a temporary website. Posts included photo galleries, a history of the hospital and event listings.  An open house promoted on Facebook drew 12,000 visitors in one weekend in a town with fewer than 20,000 people.
Taking four simple steps with social media can increase your credibility with new and current patients. It doesn’t have to be time consuming, but can be very valuable to your practice or health care system.