Part 2: Tips for Overcoming Social Media Fears in the Medical World

[Note: This is the second part in a four-part series about the potential that social media holds for physicians and health care professionals.]

Only 16% of hospitals in the United States are currently engaging in social media. Yeah…

83% of those hospitals don’t solicit feedback from people who follow their Facebook feeds, and less than 40% even post daily content to their pages. So why is it taking so long for the medical world to catch the social media wave?

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Obviously there are a lot of initial concerns with implementing and monitoring social media in the medical world. While these fears (which we will touch on in a moment) are legitimate, the biggest fear for medical professionals should be the repercussions of the lack of social media engagement (both internally and externally).

You might think I’m just saying all of this because I’m a social media fanatic, BUT as you’ll see below, the facts are there to prove that the need to engage in social media far outweighs the fears.

Top 5 concerns for hospitals engaging in social media

  • We’re too busy saving lives to tweet about it
  • With everything out on the open, how can we ensure legality/privacy in our posting?
  • What are we even supposed to post? How do we organize that?
  • If people need treatment they can come in to see us.  Why do we need social media profiles?
  • What if we don’t want patients and employees posting sensitive information all over our profiles?

Top 5 solutions for hospitals engaging in social media

  • It’s your lucky day – companies like The Marketing Zen Group can handle the strategy, research, and day-to-day operations of your social media presence. You can even hire a team internally if that would better fit your hospital’s needs.Either way, the message I am stressing is that you need that social presence to:
    » Help manage your hospital’s reputation
    » Engagement with your patients and employees
    » Increase medical discussions
    » Expand your donor and support base
    » Provide resources that will reduce confusion and eliminate unnecessary walk-ins
  • Stick to your approved strategy and content calendar to combat legality issues. Basic customer service/conversational interjections come with the territory, so have your social media manager aware of do’s and don’ts for your posting. As a rule of thumb, NEVER discuss patients’ individual cases via social media to keep the patient-physician relationship boundaries firm, but simple symptoms and diagnosis tips make for fabulous content!
    Nurses or physicians will post what they want on their own time and on their own profiles (like in the Tri-City Medical Case), but having guidelines laid out will place liability on them individually for privacy violations, not the hospital as a whole.
  • Create a social media policy and monitor employees to ensure that the hospitals’ brand is being represented correctly at all times. Recent hospital happenings, major upcoming events, major medical breakthroughs, or questions from fans/followers make for great content. Set out a content calendar to serve the objectives of your strategy and make sure you optimize to post more information similar to your posts with the best feedback ratios.
  • From shopping to hosting video conferences, people are using the internet (and specifically social media) for literally everything these days. Health-related activities and information seeking are not exceptions. People like being able to hop on their laptop to search STD symptoms in privacy, or search basic cough remedies (saving your time and effort, and obviously their own). Similarly, with the increasing popularity of friend-referrals and online reviews, you need to have a social online presence because that is where the people are getting their information.
  • The exciting, yet sometimes unnerving part of social media is that anyone can post anything whenever they want. You have to learn to define appropriate posting and foster relationships formed around user-generated content and conversations. As an insider tip – only 3% of hospitals utilize their Facebook discussion boards (which are a great way to get conversations starting and rolling in the direction that YOU choose).

So I hope that you are scrambling at the end of this post to establish your hospital’s social media profiles, set up alerts for monitoring conversations about your doctors and nurses, and discover what value your unique social media strategy can offer your soon-to-be-huge social media following. Take a look at what social media can offer you before you allow is to scare you.

Please comment below with questions, suggestions, or your own accounts of social media in the medical world. Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series, when we’ll discuss internal vs. external hospital social media strategies.

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  1. Ali, its obvious how passionate about social media you are! You hit on some key issues that are specific to the patient confidentiality and I agree that patients individual privacy is the primary issue but, I think that there are better solutions than just “managing the hospital’s reputation”

    • Hi David, thanks for responding!

      I couldn’t agree with you more. Part four of this series will actually focus on HIPPA-specific social media initiatives and solutions for medical practices regarding different situations. I hope you’ll contribute to that post by responding with specific examples yourself!

      Happy reading!

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