3 Ways to Leverage Social Media in Healthcare

1. Flash Feedback. Nearly everyone has a cell phone and is eager to relate his or her opinions. Patients often share immediate feedback on their care experience, while they are still on-site at the care facility. This is a game changer. Typically, we must wait weeks or months post-discharge to receive feedback from a mail or telephone survey. By then, it is much too late to impact that patient’s experience through service recovery or other intervention. Now, while we continue traditional surveying to identify and correct problems in processes, we are able to constantly monitor our social media notifications for signals from Facebook, Twitter or Instagram that something is amiss—such as an extended wait in the emergency room, an unsatisfactory meal or a nonresponsive care provider. If we can catch a negative review in real-time, we can identify and locate that patient in our care facility and take action to turn things around before the individual is discharged. This often results in enhanced patient satisfaction and, when the facility or patient can close out the complaint online, goodwill from those watching who see that the complaint was taken seriously and addressed expediently.

2. Communication Continuity. The 10 to 20 minutes providers typically spend with a patient is only enough to address acute concerns. There is so much more to discuss and simply not enough time. This is a real challenge if you run a medical practice operating as a patient-centered medical home, or if you are part of an accountable care organization tasked with meeting metrics. Historically, we have seen PCMHs and ACOs staff up, adding additional mid-level providers or nurse navigators and social workers to help close the gaps. Those extra clinicians can be incredibly effective, though costly and labor intensive. What we see gaining a foothold in more innovative practices today is a care team focused on direct communication, supplemented by a social media presence focusing on digital communication. This allows the opportunity to enhance the messaging given by care providers during office visits, paired with the ability for patients to interact when they choose, even outside of office hours. We may offer reminders to our patient base about critical issues like following screening guidelines, while balancing clinical content with useful resources like healthy recipes, exercise tips and links to interesting news articles. We are building engaging relationships and adding value beyond the office setting. Social media allows us to embrace not just sick care, but holistic wellness, meeting the true aims of population health and patient-centered care.

3. Elevate Engagement. Engaging associates through social media allows them to enhance their relationship with their employer and to become brand ambassadors. We spend so much time in healthcare focused on the patient, and rightfully so, but communication to the care team is just as important. While associates expect common methods of communication like newsletters, emails and memos, social media often offers the chance to highlight the lighter side of business or to share items of broad interest. Social platforms are a great place to showcase achievements and event photos so associates across the organization can celebrate each other’s accomplishments. They also offer an excellent venue for promoting events of interest to the community. While it is unlikely that associates will go into their email and forward along an event flyer to 1,000 people in their network, we see this daily on social media. It has become incredibly easy to share and retweet, with or without taking the time to add any commentary. Leveraging our engaged associates as ambassadors for our brand, letting them showcase the difference they are making in their work, and gaining exposure to their networks, is a benefit to the organization and associates alike.

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