Why physicians should become active on social media

May 24, 2017

If you and your team haven’t discussed how social media can be used to grow your practice and get seen in a competitive market, I hope you keep reading. Finding success with social media takes time and energy, but it’s never too late to start building momentum.

If you and your team haven’t discussed how social media can be used to grow your practice and get seen in a competitive market, I hope you keep reading. Finding success with social media takes time and energy, but it’s never too late to start building momentum. 

 

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Understandably, some physicians are resistant to the idea of professionally embracing social media. However, I truly believe that everyone, both the novice and the social media savvy, can find a way to make these digital platforms work for them.

With a unique voice, good content, patience and a lot of consistency, your practice’s Twitter,Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or YouTube channel can become valuable assets.

Here are a few reasons why getting your healthcare practice or hospital specialty program active on social media can pay off:

1.     Build a Sense of Community

As physicians or hospital administrators, we are busy. Interacting with patients to the degree we’d like and fostering great doctor-patient relationships that build loyalty simply isn’t possible all the time. A 2016 study that looked at doctors across 26 specialties found that patients spent an average of 13-16 minutes with their doctor, per visit. Sixteen minutes or less is not a lot of time to address a patient’s immediate concerns, much less build a relationship. This is where social media comes in.

 

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Creating a comfortable, safe and educational atmosphere online that showcases your clinical expertise and creates conversations that are relevant to your patients is something that can deliver more face time with the people you serve. Welcoming feedback and supporting peer engagement is a differentiator for your practice and will help you become more relatable to patients. It allows patients to see another side of you as a clinician, and adds another dimension to your practice.

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The more conversation-generating questions your practice posts, and the more interactive the content it shares, the more likely your social pages are to build a following. An active online forum with patients who can relate to one another (and you) will draw attention to your practice and can boost word-of-mouth referrals.

2.     Share Helpful Information

As mentioned above, when bouncing from patient to patient during busy days, it’s nearly impossible to share all of the information and resources you’d like. Social media gives providers a platform to post important clinical information, breaking research and inspiring stories to a larger audience. Using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or YouTube to share pertinent or helpful information can improve patient education, enhance symptom management and get patients actively involved in their health.

 

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A few examples of information that I usually share on Instagram are injury films and post-treatment films. This image is a 360-degree 3D CT of a patient’s knee after a motorcycle accident. Followers of my Instagram account can better understand how 3D reconstructions are helping surgeons better prepare for complex procedures. Another image was of a patient who had a common but devastating ankle injury. The pink arrows in the image demonstrate a straight forward view and a side view of an ankle that is both fractured and dislocated. The green arrows show the same views of the ankle after realignment of the bones and joint and placement into a splint to temporarily stabilize the ankle and control both pain and swelling

The last example is a bit graphic and of an older athlete that developed a fracture of the patella when he fell onto a flexed knee. The patient had the patella fixed and the hardware removed, but then re-fractured the patella. Due to the comminution and the patient’s poor bone quality, my team had to perform a less commonly used fixation technique which we shared via Instagram.

Next: Build a practice that better meets patients' needs

 

Giving patients more information and visuals empowers them by decreasing the fear of the unknown and allowing them see that many others have also faced and conquered difficult injuries. The visual aspect of Instagram is also a great way to interact with followers and to show the important work being done in medicine. The more knowledge and awareness your patients have, the better patients they will be.

Understand your patients better

Social media is a two-way communication model. As a physician, it gives you and your team the opportunity to communicate with your patients, receive valuable feedback and better understand who they are. Patients will be uninhibited when sharing what they like and dislike, because it’s an online forum. Use this as a learning opportunity to better understand your patients.

 

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If you’re running a specialty program, this could not be more ideal! For the first time in the history of building and growing a successful practice, you have an unprecedented view into who it is you’re treating, what their beliefs are, what their fears are, what type of information they respond to and what questions they’re asking.

If you use this information to understand the patients you treat, you can build a practice that better meets their needs. This works both ways. Physicians can also use social media to attract the types of patients with certain interests and goals that they are most interested in treating. In this sense, by better understanding an ideal patient group and building a direct channel to reach them, a physician can tailor his or her practice to better reflect his or her own personality, business goals and to meet the market’s needs.

In contemporary healthcare, your practice’s success is dependent on both your skills as a physician and the patient’s perception of your skills. Social media is a tool that can help bridge the gap. I hope you take advantage of this wonderful medium.