Social media is more powerful than you think. It has become increasingly common for patients to find their physicians online. Creating a positive online presence can be one of the easiest ways to market your practice and make a lasting impression on patients.
Kimberly Danebrock, JDSocial media is more powerful than you think. It has become increasingly common for patients to find their physicians online. Creating a positive online presence can be one of the easiest ways to market your practice and make a lasting impression on patients.
Creating or improving your online presence isn’t difficult. However, it requires a series of proactive steps. An important first step is to increase your search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is the process of making your online content more likely to show up in Google and other search engines.
Before you begin posting on social media such as Facebook and Twitter, develop a social media plan. Create content that ensures your audience understands your perspective as a physician, and determine your overall tone. Identifying your main publishing themes early will help keep your content consistent and ensure that your followers see you the way you wish to be seen. Create a social media presence on platforms that patients use regularly and consider influential.
LinkedIn is a business-oriented social network and a great tool for managing your professional identity. Creating a LinkedIn profile, which is basically a digital version of your resume, takes about 30 minutes. LinkedIn profiles get ranked high on Google results page, so this is enough to yield valuable results.
Blogs are uniquely positioned to help you educate and engage with your patients and the medical community. Blogs rank high in search engine results.
Twitter enables users to send and read short messages called “Tweets.” Each message is restricted to a 140-character limit, so you will need to be concise. Twitter is best used for sharing quick tips, opinions on trending topics, and links to relevant articles.
Physicians who use Facebook should maintain separate profiles for their personal and professional persona. Your professional page is the one that patients should view and with which they can engage. Your professional profile can advertise special events, conferences, education opportunities, and breakthroughs in medical research. Patients should be discouraged from accessing your personal profile.
Creating social media profiles is a way of building an online audience, but they also expose you and your practice to liability if not done carefully. Federal and state privacy laws are very strict about not disclosing patient health information. You can be fired, sued, or fined as much as $50,000 per violation.
Never identify someone as a patient on social media. Addressing patients collectively should help you avoid privacy risks. If an unknown patient asks a personal health question on social media, don’t answer. Instead, take the conversation offline with a standard response that asks them to call the office. And never attempt to make a diagnosis via social media. This can open you up to serious liability. Instead, encourage the individual to call the office for an appointment.
The most effective weapon against liability is a clear, strict office policy that specifically addresses the use of social media both on and off the job. Your policy should designate who in the practice will have administrative privileges on your practice’s social media profiles and content, and emphasize professional behavior. All employees should be trained on these policies with specific examples to emphasize how even small, seemingly innocuous disclosures can constitute privacy violations.
Kimberly Danebrock, JD, is a senior risk management and patient safety specialist for the Cooperative of American Physicians.
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