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A Cure for Social Media and the Medical Field

(Note:  This post was originally published by me on my company Standing Partnership’s website)

I have a confession to make: I rarely buy anything without looking for online reviews first. This tendency isn’t just for big purchases such as cars or television sets; on many occasions, I’ve searched doctors or urgent care facilities, even though I’m still convinced at my age that I’m invincible. Here’s another confession: I know I’m not alone.

Last year, Demi & Cooper Advertising and DC Interactive Group conducted a study showing that more than 90% of people ages 18-24 said they would trust health information they found on social media channels. Further, it’s not just my generation that is using technology to find their doctors. The study found that one in two adults (spanning multiple generational boundaries) use their smartphone to look-up health information, and that 44% of people said they would share positive or negative experiences of a hospital or medical facility. Meanwhile, only a quarter of American hospitals have a social media presence. In other words, patients are becoming more tech-savvy than their doctors, and they’re talking about their healthcare providers in a space where there are very few medical professionals able to join in the conversation.

The medical field is shockingly behind other industries in adopting digital communications and reaching to their customers, but it’s not their entire fault. Part of the problem lies in the conundrum of balancing a public social media account while adhering to HIPPA regulations. This basically means that the tried-and-true tactics for other industries won’t always carry over, and that many medical professionals are reluctant to even embark on a social media campaign. Thankfully, there are other avenues for medical professionals to take.

Before I started at Standing Partnership, I worked at a local optometrist office with their digital communications. We established an online space across major social networks, and reached out to patients regularly by posting content about new medical news and developments, conditions to be aware of (depending on the season), and even comedic pictures or games. A blog was created for the doctors to write their own posts about their experiences and general advice, allowing them to be their own best advocates to their patients.  We collected patient e-mails (with permission and full disclosure, of course) and created newsletters with unique content that was distributed quarterly.  It wasn’t long before we realized that the patients loved it.  In the span of a year and a half, our numbers more than doubled on Facebook, and we started to see a growing group of new patients who were introduced to us in the online space. Best of all, we were active in the online space, representing ourselves. If someone left a negative review on a website or Twitter, we were able to reach out to them and attempt to correct the problem.  If we hadn’t been online, these complaints would have gone unnoticed, causing us to lose the patient and scare off future potential patients.

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg with what’s possible, and it won’t work for everyone.  However, it hopefully serves as inspiration to get the ball rolling.  Hospitals, doctors, and other medical professionals need to be active in social media.  Every day that passes is another missed opportunity, and as we all know, an injury left untreated only gets worse over time.

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