Patient Engagement Strategies Must Include Active Social Media
Late last month, HP Social Media released a new report detailing the many reasons why it’s so important that healthcare providers wholeheartedly embrace social media. At the top of the list was the improved ability to engage with the greater population and to add wisdom to the typically patient-centered healthcare conversation.
The authors of HP's report state that the use of social media will increase provider revenue, cut costs and enhance the quality of patient care. Based on our experience we tend to agree. However, there is still an inherent mistrust of social media channels and the use of them for interacting with patients. Many healthcare providers fear the tendency for too much sharing will create a security breach whether the user is aware of it or not. There is also a common fear that a health provider will over-share or inappropriately mix their personal and business lives in these online communities.
For providers, the AMA offers a great guide for using social media. You can find it here.
Creating A Social Media Policy Is Worth It
Social media has become an integral part of our personal and professional landscapes. In order to feel secure using social media, it's worth the time to create a social media policy and adhere to it so that you may participate more freely with your patients. Research is also key to successful social media use - consider including in your policy the setting up of a monitoring system looking on Facebook, Twitter and Google for your name, your business name and any of your partner’s or competitor’s names. It’s also a good idea to set up a keyword monitor on all areas that are of direct interest to your area of practice expertise. These are some of the best ways to stay on top of what is being shared and said about you, your partners and competitors on the internet. It’s always better to know than to be surprised by a client, superior or competitor with unexpected information.
Renowned organizations such as the Mayo Clinic and Kaiser Permanente have entirely embraced social media as part of their public persona. Mayo Clinic has over 400K followers on Twitter, 300K on Facebook and one of the best known most highly trafficked YouTube channels in healthcare. They use their online face to educate patients and non-patients alike. These powerful tools allow experienced professionals to have a voice in a landscape that is controlled by patients. Watch how they do it.
Employing a variety of social media tools is truly a great way for the medical community to help guide the conversation and to shun myths and misconceptions about health care before they spin out of control.
In HP's report, Kaiser Permanente says “(to) follow your best judgment when using [social media sources and services]”. This one line helps to set the tone around social media in health care. Elsewhere in the report, early social media adopter Kevin Pho,MD, Internal Medicine Physician and founder of KevinMD.com is quoted, “Social media gives those of us in the healthcare field a way to connect and have a voice. It is tremendously important as we deal with healthcare reform that doctors be heard and that decisions are not left up to politicians and policy makers.”
Tools and Hashtags
I find that using services like feedly.com to monitor blogs helps me stay on top of the social media landscape. Also, using popular hashtags to monitor Twitter feeds is a great way to productively stay on top of the vital information that is being shared every day.
Here are some of the best Twitter hashtags for #healthcarepracticemanagement
1. #hcsm -- includes social media conversations about healthcare
2. #qualitychat -- covers patient saftey, quality of care issues
3. #JACR -- includes patient care, practice managment, healthcare dellivery
4. #handihealth -- healthcare apps
5. #HITsm -- healthcare technology, HITECH, HL7
6. #digitalhealth -- online healthcare community
7. #mhealth -- mobile healthcare applications
8. #patients -- in their own words
9. #pharma100 -- discussions about a variety of pharmaceuticals and big pharma
10. #epatient -- patients discussing their conditions
It will take time and effort by you and your staff to create a successful social media effort. It will be time well spent.
Photo is courtesy of www.healthit.gov