Six ways to use social media in healthcare can help get the word out about healthcare professionals and the services they provide.
Social media has taken the world by storm and it’s much more than a way to share painfully adorable pictures of kittens — it’s also a way of finding and sharing valuable information. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 72 percent of Internet users say they looked for health information online in the past year. When a serious health issue arose, patients trusted the doctors most of all, with 70 percent of them going to their doctor or other healthcare professional for answers.
That trust in doctors, hospitals and nurses extends to the virtual world. A 2012 Pricewaterhouse Coopers consumer survey found that 60 percent of respondents in all age demographics would trust information posted online by their physicians, and 55 percent would trust information posted online on behalf of their hospitals. Sharing goes both ways: Almost a quarter of all respondents would be happy to share their own take on health issues, experiences, medications and medical treatment online.
The numbers make the story clear: Hospitals, physicians and other healthcare professionals can reach more patients by becoming engaged in social media.
How to use healthcare social media
How can those new to social media make the various opportunities work for them? These six ways to use social media in healthcare can help get the word out about healthcare professionals and the services they provide.
- Tweet it out. In a fast-paced world, messages of 140 characters or less are well-received. Keep your Twitter account active and relevant by passing on links to interesting journal articles, newsworthy tidbits and “did you know” snippets of health trivia. Remember to always respond to tweets and retweet any worthwhile information.
- Tell it on a blog. Blogs that reach a specific target audience and deliver pertinent information can give your personal and professional brand a big boost. Popular health blogs include those that offer new updates on health issues or common-sense solutions to health problems. Capture readers with a mixture of information and humor, the way many anonymous doctors and nurses do on their blogs, and you might see your readership skyrocket.
- Show your stuff. The Mayo Clinic currently has the most popular medical provider channel on YouTube, according to SocialMediaToday. How did they do it? By delivering videos on everything from what to expect from medical procedures to how to understand certain medical conditions. New videos are posted almost daily, which means the content is always fresh and new.
- Make time for Facebook. One of the most popular gathering sites on the Web, a Facebook account is a must for any savvy social media initiative. Facebook can allow you to tap into a ready-made community of individuals who want to learn more about health, medical conditions and new research. Best of all, in-depth conversations can be sparked in the comments section, giving providers and patients a chance to interact in a meaningful way.
- Talk it out with podcasts. Not everyone has the time to wade through medical journals or scholarly reports. Podcasts allow you to showcase your knowledge, answer general medical questions and focus on concerns that your target audience wants to learn more about. Podcasts are also a great way to break down complicated information so that anyone can understand it, a move that could make tired and worried minds very grateful.
- Pin it. It’s not just a site dedicated to crafts and cute babies. Pinterest is filled with all sorts of helpful things, and one of those is the health and fitness board, complete with inspirational pictures and links to everything from new exercise routines to healthy diets to serious discourse on other health-related issues. (But be warned, busy healthcare professionals: Pinterest can be a delightful time-sucker like no other.)
Best of all, these social media outlets can all work with each other to create a cohesive online presence. By making more information about yourself available with only a few clicks, patients can get a very comprehensive picture of who you are, what you do and the kind of assistance they can receive from you.
A few cautions
Chances are you’ve already been using the Internet for networking and researching in your capacity as a healthcare professional and don’t need to be reminded that what happens on the Internet, stays on the Internet — forever. Decide on a few key points before you post, tweet or like. Are you comfortable with posting personal information, such as religious or political beliefs? Are you okay with patients being able to contact you online? If you have any qualms about mixing your personal life with your professional one, create strict rules about maintaining both a personal and professional profile online.
Finally, don’t forget about privacy laws. Discussing any patient online — even a fictional patient whose case is a bit too close to fact — can land you in hot water with employers, patients, regulatory bodies and even the law. When posting online, steer clear of anything that might appear inappropriate or flirt with any professional boundaries. In short, never share something online that you might one day regret.
About the Author:
Shannon Dauphin Lee has been writing professionally for 20 years on a wide variety of topics, including medical and health issues, education, and relationships.