Social Media Benefits (and Potential Problems)


Q: My practice isn’t very new, we’ve been open for close to 10 years now and we aren’t exactly wanting for patients — we’re pretty much at our desired patient volume. Some of the younger doctors wonder if we should be using social media and I’m not sure if I see what the allure is if we don’t need the business. Do we get on Twitter and Facebook, and what exactly would we post about that our patients would want to see?

A: Social media can be very helpful if you want to reach out to your current patients and keep them happy. These platforms aren’t just about promoting your business to get new customers, and anyway, that doesn’t seem like that’s what you would need to use it for.

Instead, you want to let your patients know that you have a social media presence and it will be monitored to help anyone with questions or concerns. You might sometimes find that patients have already gone online anyway to find answers before they come to you. If they can go to you online and not an outside source, it will help build trust between you.

However, social media is all about constant interaction. If you honestly don’t think any of the physicians in your practice will have the time and inclination to periodically check the social media sites throughout the day, or if you don’t think your patients will even want to reach out to you that way — and depending on the general age of your patients that’s a possibility — then it might be a waste. There’s nothing more off putting than finding a page that’s basically dead and abandoned.

Perhaps you should do some recon with your patients first and see if those sites would fill a real need. If you find that they would gladly go on the site to contact you that way, then set it up and make sure someone has the responsibility of checking that site every day. You might want to leave it up to a PA, or the office manager to monitor and let one of you know when there’s something to answer. Or you might decide that you should all rotate responsibility.

But whatever you do, make sure you speak with a lawyer and understand the legal ramifications if the wrong information is put on that site. According to Physician’s Practice, you can talk broadly about health topics, but if it gets to personal, you should have that person make an appointment. Just as a lawyer wouldn’t want someone to construe what they posted online as legal advice and a financial adviser wouldn’t want someone to make money decisions without discussing it in person, physicians shouldn’t offer specific medical advice through these venues.

Have a question? Write to PMD's team of experts at lmortkowitz@hcplive.com.

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