With the expansion of rich information found on social media and review websites, the modern patient is empowered like never before. Researching physicians is as simple as browsing for a car or laptop: search engines and rating websites provide current or former patients a platform for sharing their experiences. Reputation management is a global process that begins and ends with networking sites like Google+. Social media is changing the healthcare game into something much more interactive. That is an exciting concept for professionals looking to amp up their referral systems.
Why Online Reputation Matters in Healthcare
People are increasingly referring to mobile devices to perform research online. A study by the Pew Research Center suggests that one in five people who use the internet to find a doctor rely on physician ratings.
The flip side of an internet presence is the potential for damaging feedback: that is the basis of reputation management. Any brand or physician should habitually search its name on Google to look for negative reviews or comments. In the medical world, this is how doctors keep up on what their patients are saying about them and what future patients see.
How does Social Media Fit into Healthcare?
A social media page on Google+ adds a way for doctors to better connect with the public. It’s an upbeat way to manage professional reputation and improve patient care. Patients see the bond with their physician as a very personal one. They appreciate the opportunity to vocalize their satisfaction or frustration with a specific physician or experience. Social media creates an e-patient scenario that allows the physician to promote healthy living, generate trust, and market the healthcare brand. For a doctor, time is in short supply, but fostering a positive reputation online allows you to stay ahead of the curve.
Building a Social Media Voice
The process of developing a “voice” will differ among physicians and service lines. A doctor with a full practice might spend only one hour a week on Google managing his online reputation, while a new cosmetic surgeon will need to commit much more time to creating a brand. Other doctors use their online voice to educate and promote wellness as a way to further their patient’s quality of care. Most businesses, medical or otherwise, realize the power of a professional website. Social media is just another tool to amplify that voice.
What about Referrals?
Engaging with one person through social media translates into interaction with friends and family at the same time. Social media takes word of mouth to the next level. Consider some practical tips for using social media healthcare to enhance referrals:
- Research your options: This is critical factor. Many healthcare facilities and organizations have specific rules and guidelines about social media. Take the time to investigate social media polices that affect your strategy to build an online presence.
- Privacy is key in social media: Patient privacy is paramount, but it is easy to lose sight of that fact when interacting with a computer screen. Keep in mind the number of eyes that see posts on a social media page. This includes other patients and family members in addition to healthcare administrators, government bodies and content journalists.
- Disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer: Include an upfront disclaimer on all social media healthcare pages and posts. If communicating with patients through social media, such as during an hour-long Q&A on Twitter, point out that you are not providing a medical diagnosis or treatment.
- Seek expert advice: Companies that specialize in reputation management are popping up every day. Find a firm that creates strategies to develop a social media voice. They can handle some of the preliminary legwork and ease you into the process.
- Don’t mix business with pleasure: Keep separate social media accounts for your personal communication. If you use Facebook or Twitter to stay in touch with friends and family, donat use them to foster a professional online reputation. This is as much a safety concern as business advice.
There is a new generation of patients out there, and they are more than just internet-savvy, they are internet-reliant. Doctors need to understand that reputation management and generating referrals online are now a concrete component of digital marketing. The internet, and specifically social media, is part of the modern medical practice.