Medical professionals may think that social media is more for sharing what you cooked for breakfast than what health procedure you’re undertaking — and they’re right. But that doesn’t mean that social media isn’t a valuable marketing tool for doctors and healthcare providers.
When done carefully, social media, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn, is a powerful way to build loyalty in current patients and connect with future new patients, too.
Still, many doctors and health pros stay away from digital marketing through social media for fear they will conflict with HIPAA laws. This legitimate concern is just one of the unique challenges in marketing through social media in the healthcare industry.
But by following the best practices of marketing professionals, it’s possible to use social media to grow your patient base. It’s possible to carefully monitor your online reputation and proactively share posts that connect with the values of your practice, all while protecting the privacy of your patients.
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What are the social media and healthcare HIPAA requirements?
When it comes to complying with HIPAA requirements in marketing campaigns, a big obstacle is the lack of clear rules. HIPAA was enacted by Congress in 1996 when the internet itself was just launching. Facebook was launched eight years later.
That doesn’t mean HIPAA doesn’t apply to what you post on social media or send out in an email newsletter. Quite the opposite! You should never disclose any protected health information about your patients, including any individually identifiable details about demographics, test results, or medical histories.
Don’t share any insurance information that’s specific to a patient, and keep any facts that can be used to identify someone off social media. Unless you get a signed release from a patient, don’t use their image in a photo or a video, either.
Staying professional online
HIPAA isn’t the only challenge to social media marketing for healthcare practices. It’s also important (and sometimes difficult) to maintain a level of professionalism, which can often be eroded by the casual, sometimes silly nature of social media.
One way that you can ensure professionalism is by having a website that current and potential patients can access to get accurate and vital information about the services and procedures your practice provides. Make sure your website is mobile-responsive since many people search using a mobile device.
You can position yourself as an expert in your field — but only if you post content that is appropriate at all times. Here are some examples of ways you can use social media to promote your practice:
Share new services
In the past, you may have submitted a press release to the local newspaper. Today, most people get their news through social media. Whenever you are expanding services through hiring a new medical professional or purchasing a new piece of equipment, you’ll want to announce it on your social media accounts.
Social media offers an opportunity to communicate with your clients directly. If they have questions about the new services, you can encourage them to contact your office manager or marketing professional through a direct message.
Communicate new policies
Similarly, new policies need to be announced on social media. For example, you may have had a new protocol put in place as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. By letting your patients know the new waiting room and masking procedures in advance, you are providing the enhanced customer service that they deserve.
Be sure to frequently check your social media accounts to see if anyone has questions about new policies. Always answer as clearly and professionally as possible. If there is continued confusion, encourage the commenter to discuss it with you either in a direct message or by calling your office. Remember, others are reading whatever you comment on. Always take the high road.
Highlight your specialties
Members of your medical team all have individual specialties, but you can’t expect your patients to know everything you can offer them for their health. Profiling your doctors, their education, and their experience will make people more interested in working with them in the future.
In each highlighted post, don’t forget to add in a small personal detail about the doctor, such as where they grew up or what they like to do in their free time, so patients can relate on a deeper level. People want to feel like they know their doctors just as well as their doctors know them.
Encourage patients to get involved
Not everyone knows the steps needed to take an active role in the state of their health. This is where healthcare professionals can provide a great service. Consider writing a blog filled with health-related tips that are pertinent to your specialty.
When you post a blog article to your website and share the link on your social media pages, you also can help your practice rank higher in Google searches. You’ll need to make sure that your blog articles are optimized so search engines can find what you’re writing.
One way to do this is to include keywords, a term used to describe the words that people use to search for things. The art of researching and including these is called SEO, and it’s worth learning about before you begin publishing consistent educational content.
Manage your online reputation
Another challenge that medical professionals face with social media is the concern that there will be a negative reaction. The reality is that there will always be people who are not satisfied. By handling negative reviews in a professional manner, it’s possible to appease the complaining patient and gain new ones, too.
You’ll want to monitor any reviews and comments that are listed on Facebook or any other social media site, as well as the other listing sites such as RateMD, Healthgrades, and Vitals. When someone gives a positive comment, thank them for trusting your practice with their healthcare needs.
If a review is negative, you’ll want to acknowledge the reviewer’s concerns and apologize for not meeting their expectations. See if you can find a solution or explain the reasons behind their problems without making an excuse. With each concern, invite the reviewer to talk about the problem offline by giving them a direct number to someone who can listen.
Let social media work for you
Digital marketing is an effective way to connect with current patients and connect with potential new patients. By sharing educational and important information on your business’s social media sites, you can drive traffic to your website. You can also embark on a Facebook Ad campaign to get noticed.
In an ad campaign, you can encourage visitors to sign up for your email list so you can highlight the reasons why they should consider your professionals for their healthcare needs.
Do you have more questions about executing a comprehensive digital marketing campaign that includes social media in healthcare? Check out The Download, a free guide for healthcare professionals that share best practices used by marketing experts. You’ll gain the industry insights you need to expand your patient list and improve your reputation within your community.