As physicians go about their day-to-day tasks of consulting patients, running tests and diagnosing illnesses, the thought of maintaining a social media presence on platforms such as Facebook or Twitter can seem cumbersome or even downright foolish.

No longer associated with millennial procrastination, social media has earned itself a solid footing in the business world. Ask most business managers if social media is important to their overall marketing strategy today, and the answer will be a resounding yes.

And yet, the relatively young landscape of social media still has many healthcare providers questioning its value.

There is more uncertainty in the healthcare field than ever in recent memory, and that can be quite the headache for physicians and practice managers. Throw in a completely new social media platform, and most physicians or healthcare practices tend to just throw their hands up and give up.

Before giving up completely, let’s take a look at the top three advantages healthcare providers who utilize social media will have over their competitors:

1) Strengthened Patient Communication

When being judged on the quality of care, one of the most important factors is communication with patients.

Social media platforms present an unprecedented opportunity to effectively communicate with patients (and potential patients) in a relaxed and informal environment. This can go a long way in earning trust and building a strong relationship.

As we recently saw in the 2016 Presidential Election, social media has become a primary source of information for most Americans. With as many as 90% of millennials saying they trust medical information shared by others on social media, any physician who is not taking this chance to more effectively communicate with and educate their patients is missing an opportunity.

Engaging in effective communication with patients, both in and out of the clinic, creates a more transparent environment, builds trust between both parties and gives healthcare providers a chance to set themselves apart from the competition.

2) Utilizing the Empowered Patient

They say that the consumer has more power than ever, and that includes the healthcare consumer (aka patients). The age of social media has further empowered patients, and physicians need to use this to their advantage.

Patients are no longer expected to blindly follow the age-old mantra “doctor knows best.” According to a 2014 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 59% of patients say that physician rating sites were either “somewhat important” or “very important” when choosing their physician.

Healthcare providers should not be bothered by the fact that consumers have more information at their fingertips than ever before. They should be encouraged that patients want to seek that information out, because it shows the patients to be active participants in and passionate about their own care. Sure, some myth-busting may be necessary after patients turn to “Dr. Google,” but that’s just another chance for physicians to demonstrate their skills and knowledge.

Take the case of the Missouri pediatrician who posted on Facebook about vaccines in the wake of a local measles outbreak. The post went viral after being targeted by anti-vaxxers, but the practice used the opportunity to answer users’ questions about and demystify some of the controversies around vaccinations. The office was polite and respectful in all its dealings and was able to put the knowledge of its doctors to good use.

Social media platforms such as Facebook provide an opportunity to showcase the quality of care provided whether it’s through patient reviews or even just engaged followers. Physicians need to take this opportunity to showcase their expertise, compassion and overall quality of care to potential patients.

3) Creating a Strong Brand

As with any business, branding is everything for healthcare providers. With the changing landscape and consolidation in the healthcare space, this becomes even more important. A social media presence is necessary to the creation of a strong brand identity.

Using your social media to present a cohesive brand identity with consistent messaging is absolutely essential to healthcare marketing.

Social media provides another avenue to communicate your brand’s tone to current and potential patients. Even the savviest consumers can’t help but to be overcome by the persuasion of powerful branding. Do not squander this opportunity.

As With Any New Technology, There Are Risks That Come With The New Opportunities.

Social media has the means to be one of the most effective forms of communication you have with your patient base outside of the office, but that does not mean that the necessary procedures need not be followed. Remaining HIPAA compliant is an example of one hurdle that needs to be overcome when communicating with patients over social media.

Points Group specializes in social media marketing for healthcare practices. With years of experience, our social media managers understand the challenges and opportunities facing the industry. Do not waste another minute: contact one of our social media specialists today.

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