In the past, physicians and healthcare providers were concerned only with their offline reputations. But today, they are proactive about their online reputations as well. Physicians and healthcare professionals worldwide are engaged in medical tourism, all looking to promote their services to health tourists around the globe. Rather than market medicine by traditional means, social media is their avenue to share stories. Healthcare providers who harness the power of social media to build online reputations will change the patient-doctor relationship by enhancing the way they communicate.
Dr. Kevin Pho, a leading voice in social media and past Medical Tourism Congress Speaker, shared with the Medical Tourism Association, 10 ways how the medium promotes physicians and related healthcare providers and, in turn, educates patients and protects their greatest asset – their online reputation.
10 Ways Social Media Promotes Your Online Reputation
1. Help Patients Find You
Dr. Pho said that 44 percent of people look online for physician information. Patients investigate reviews and choose providers based on referrals tweeted and information on Facebook and other social media sites. Healthcare providers should encourage patients to ask questions online and provide answers by e-mail.
2. Create a Proactive Online Reputation
An online reputation leaves a digital footprint. Unlike magazine articles that can be thrown away, information online stays right there — online. Dr. Pho said people are prone to comment – both good and bad. Patients have more avenues to express criticism, which can affect reputations. Be proactive. Encourage reviews and ask patients to rate their experience. Most will be positive, but when negative reviews surface, follow this three-step process.
- Don’t respond immediately to a post, but instead resolve the dispute offline.
- Don’t attempt legal action that might show up on Google and make a bad situation worse.
3. Patient Education
According to Dr. Pho, females, 55-65-year-old,increasingly search online for information about symptoms, treatments and support. “How can I find out if my doctor is giving me the proper care?” “Is it necessary to have this vaccine?” Educating patients through blogs, articles and podcasts puts a human face on experiences and creates an emotional lifeline to patients. Patients view physicians as a trusted source willing to take the time to educate them.
4. Dispel and Debunk Myths
“Do hair and fingernails continue to grow after you die?” “Isn’t it against HIPPA rules to place patient charts outside the clinic doors?” These questions come up frequently and are considered medical myths. They are beliefs that hold no truth. Physicians can research topics and post correct answers to dispel these myths. Patients want doctors who can guide them through the healthcare system.
5. Medical Students Learn from Physicians
Medical students can use social media to learn from physicians, who can perform surgeries on a video chat platform called Google+ hangout, where groups can hear and see a video of the the procedure as it happens. They can collaborate, and share ideas with ease. This technology is spreading the way patient care is performed across the globe.
6. Hospitals Post Live Procedures on YouTube and Twitter
Live procedures posted on YouTube and Twitter engage the public. Imagine watching a knee replacement online and learning firsthand from a surgeon the steps needed to take. Connect and educate patients with this virtual platform.
7. Physicians Give Perspectives on Breaking News
When breaking news occurs, be the first to give a perspective on events. The American Heart Association adopted Social Media into its “Chest Only Compression Campaign” or articles on “HCV Drug Approved.” Be part of a viral marketing message.
8. Expert Speakers
Be positioned as an expert by featuring leading healthcare speakers in articles, blogs and videos. This material is valuable and linkable to social media contacts. Invite recognized cancer experts and share information about negative/positive screen tests, and keep up-to-date with headlines to share topics of interest about anti-aging, wellness lifestyle, caregiving, alternative medicines and others. Focus on a different speaker each week.
9. Give Meaning to News
Patients can ask, “What does this mean to me?” and a doctor can give a perspective. It’s much harder to comfort a patient than it is to scare them. Offer opinions and open a dialogue. Patients will appreciate honesty and share the message with others.
10. Crowd Source Diagnosis
Patients and physicians use Crowd.sourcing Medical Diagnosis to collaborate and solve a problem or illness. Patients can review hundreds of physicians opinions and upload case studies. Physicians can acquire more information from colleagues on new medical topics while maintaining patient confidentiality and speeding up treatment.
Many physicians may be reluctant to use social media for different reasons. HIPPA compliance, time management, and confusing platforms can be concerns. Dr. Pho mentioned some ways to make the transition to social media a positive experience. When promoting a message and building a reputation, focus on learning a platform at a time. This could mean learning how to post blogs or use Twitter. Don’t discuss certain medical conditions with patients and understand HIPPA policies. Keep professional and personal lives separate.
Social media isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. Physicians can’t ignore its impact on business and reputation. Get out from behind closed office doors and embrace the different platforms to connect with the community.
Social media will make a positive difference in professional and online reputations.
About the Author
Dede Sindelar helps clients tell stories that impact the world. She is passionate about travel, adventure, writing and healthcare and enjoys combining those activities in her freelance writing business. Dede’s knowledge of the disease-focused healthcare industry was launched many years ago when she began marketing for physicians and healthcare providers.providers. Dede’s career is centered on a philosophy that people do business with people they like.