Your Medical Practice and Social Media: 5 Guidelines

Healthcare and medical practice is, by nature, a fairly private industry. HIPAA protects the privacy of patients and their medical history from the public eye. Medical organizations continually need to walk a fine line when promoting or publicly speaking about diseases, their service lines, and their organization in general.

However, the advent of social media started to change the game. There is a staggering, and growing, list of hospitals and health systems joining social media to connect with their community. Without a doubt your medical practice is or is considering social media.

In order to get started or improve your current social media, follow these five guidelines.

1. Be the Leader/Expert

Whether you are a medical practice, solo health practitioner, hospital, or health network, it is important to be the leader.

What we mean by that, is that it is your responsibility to provide an expert voice on varying health issues. The community will look to you for answers regarding relevant health topics and issues. Here are a few examples.

Your practice is the leading orthopaedic surgery clinic in the area. A notable professional athlete for your hometown team tears his/her ACL. Your practice can provide its own professional insight to the situation. Discuss ACL tears, their rehabilitation requirements, and potential re-injury in the future. You won’t know the patient’s exact diagnosis or extent of the tear, but you can provide the community with an expert opinion.

Another example to look at is food recalls. If there is a national recall or a local recall on a food product due to salmonella or food-borne bacteria, your practice can provide insight regarding the medical conditions associated with the recall. Discuss symptoms of salmonella poisoning or bacteria such as listeria.

You can address a lot of the public’s concern with your medical expertise shared on social media. Showing that you are on top of current health-related events will grow your reputation as being a leader and expert in the medical community.

2. Address the Negatives

Receiving positive reviews is always a welcome notion for any business. There is not a restaurant in this world that wouldn’t love to see five out of five stars listed on their Yelp business page.

However, often times it is not the positive reviews that have the most impact. It is in fact the negative reviews that elicit the most reaction and can sway a potential customer’s buying decision the most.

This applies to the medical profession as well. Potential patients will review your practice before choosing you unless it is an absolute emergency.

So how should your practice handle negative reviews? Let’s start with the worst way: ignoring them. Ignoring a customer complaint or negative review shows others that you don’t have the time to address concerns.

Your practice needs to respond to all negative reviews and complaints. How you respond and interact with the reviewer will also affect how the public views you. You never want to start a shouting match over social media. First, addressing their specific issue publicly will potentially violate HIPAA. Second, it looks childish to see a business playing the blame game publicly with a previous patient or customer.

The best way to address a negative comment on social media is to provide a sympathetic, apologetic statement and providing them with an individual’s contact information so that any issues can be addressed. Below is a sample statement:

Dear PATIENT, we are extremely sorry for any inconvenience and issues that you have had with our service. Patient satisfaction is extremely important to us and we wanted to take this opportunity to provide you with CUSTOMER REP’s information so that we can further address your situation. Please feel free to contact them at ###-###-#### or EMAIL@ADDRESS.ORG. at your earliest convenience. Alternatively, you can private message us your contact information if you would like our representative to reach out to you. Again, we are deeply sorry for any issues you had and would like to provide your with further assistance.

3. Have a Personality

Social media is your opportunity to show that your practice is run by human beings. People inherently like interacting on a human level. Throwing quarterly financial press releases and stats at them all day is not going to captivate them.

Your goal is to invite them to interact with you. Have a sense of humour, show you compassionate side, and talk to them how you would talk to an acquaintance. The more natural and organize your social media is, the higher your chances are of successfully interacting with your audience.

4. Embrace the Community

Embrace the community in both the literal and social media sense of the word. Your social media is a great avenue for sharing community news and events. It also happens to be a great place to promote any community events you are hosting or supporting.

Invite your social media community to join you if you are sponsoring or hosting an event like a walk or run. It shows that you are an advocate for the community’s health and willing to support various causes.

Embracing the social media community also means embracing your local news and businesses. Share relevant or helpful news from your local news and help promote businesses if their values align with yours.

5. Be Consistent

Consistency is important on social media for a couple reasons.

The first reason is that it shows you are dedicated to providing your social media community with regular postings whether is is blogs, updates, or tweets. Having large amounts of lag between posts can often discourage your audience from following you. These large amounts of time between posting also show that you post only when it is convenient for you.

Another reason that consistency is important is that it provides SEO value for your business on search engines. Social will probably not be your main source of traffic to your website, however that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be valued. Having active social profiles allows your practice to have another link in the search results for branded company searches.

Following these guidelines will help your medical practice navigate the often confusing and convoluted social media waters.

About the author:

Andrew Fujii is a marketing professional with expertise in digital/web and content marketing. He is also a copywriter for multiple agencies producing copy for blogs, articles, websites, product packaging, mobile apps, and more.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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