Friday, April 24, 2015

Why Healthcare Professionals Need to Be on Social Media

What do you do when you feel a tickle in your throat, your muscle won’t stop spasming or you have a weird growth on your eyelid? Go to a doctor? Maybe eventually. If you’re like 40 percent of consumers, however, first you’re going turn to social media for advice on what to do next.

But while Jessica on Facebook, @RetweetsEverything on Twitter and Chase.R on Reddit might be well-meaning in their advice, there’s nothing like having a qualified professional answer your questions. In fact, 60 percent of social media users are most likely to trust social media posts and activity by doctors over any other group.

You’re going to have to do a little digging to find doctors on social media, though, because only 28 percent of hospitals in the U.S. post, share and tweet. Why so few, you ask?

The Diagnosis

Just like your diagnosis, social media situations in healthcare can be complicated. With the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) putting strict guidelines on how healthcare providers are able to share patients’ health information, practices are wary of jumping into the land of oversharing.

However, healthcare professionals can and should have a social presence without breaking the rules. (For specific advice on how to avoid violating HIPAA on social media, we’re going to have to refer you to a specialist.) Part of the reason is that misinformation spreads fast — remember how social media blew up during the Ebola scare? Unfortunately, without access to reliable information sources, people are going to accept whatever information seems factual, even if it’s not.

The Treatment

In order for social media users to have access to more sources of reputable health-related resources, healthcare organizations need to create and share useful, accurate and timely content. Having a social media presence has some nice side effects for healthcare organizations too: It improves their brand recognition and builds trust with the patients they treat.

Don’t believe us? Take a look at Mayo Clinic, which is the poster child for healthcare social media. The top-ranked hospital system values social engagement as part of its corporate strategy and strives to give consumers what they want to see online. For example, to create a sense of transparency, Mayo Clinic posts YouTube videos of surgeons performing surgery and gives patients the option to ask doctors questions online.

Plus, Mayo Clinic regularly produces content for its blog and podcast. People clearly “like” (see what we did there?) what the organization is doing, because it has nearly 596,000 followers on Facebook and 1.14 million on Twitter.

Although healthcare providers do have to exercise caution in what they post on social media, social networking gives them valuable opportunities they shouldn’t overlook. When done right, having a social media presence allows practices to provide users with valuable information and build trust with patients.

What’s the best use of social media in the healthcare sector you’ve seen?

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