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Social Media Platforms and Techniques for Medical Practices

Posted on December 18, 2014 I Written By

The following is a guest post by Barry Haitoff, CEO of Medical Management Corporation of America.
Barry Haitoff
In my previous post I talked about the benefits of using social media in a medical practice and I said that the next post in the series would take a look at the tools, techniques, and social media platforms you should use to help you realize the benefits of social media. This will not be an exhaustive look at social media platforms or the way to get the most out of them. However, it will be a good place for you to start and will offer some techniques that those who’ve started might not have heard about.

First, a word of warning. When starting to work with social media, be sure to pace yourself appropriately. As you start working with a specific social media platform, you might want to start “sprinting” and dive really deep into the product. That’s a great way to develop a deep understanding of the platform, but it’s not sustainable. After doing a deep dive into a social media platform, find a sustainable rhythm that your practice can sustain long term.

Social media is a marathon, not a sprint.

Facebook – With nearly 800 million active users, it’s hard to ignore the power of Facebook. Given these numbers, the majority of patients are on Facebook and they’re likely talking with their friends about their doctors. Unlike many other social media platforms, most people are connected to their real life friends on Facebook. That means the focus of your work on Facebook should be to help your most satisfied patients be able to remember to share this with their friends as the need arises.

On Facebook this usually takes the form of a practice Facebook page that your patients can “like.” Invite your patients to like your Facebook page when they’re in your office or through your patient portal. You can even test some Facebook advertising using your internal email list to get your patients to like your page. However, the most important thing you can do is to make sure you regularly update your Facebook page with quality content. That way, they will want to like your page when they find it.

When it comes to content, put yourself in the shoes of your patients and think about what content you would find useful as a patient. Don’t be afraid to post things that represent the values of your practice, but may not be specific to your practice. In most cases, what you’re sharing on Facebook is more about helping that patient remember your practice as opposed to trying to sell them something. For example, it’s more effective to post something entertaining that your patients will like and comment on than it is to post some dry sales piece that they’ll ignore.

Twitter – Similar to Facebook, you want to create a two step process with Twitter. First, think about content you can post to your Twitter feed that would be useful to your patients and prospective patients. No matter what marketing methods you employ to increase Twitter followers, if your Twitter account isn’t posting interesting, useful, funny, entertaining, or informative content, then no one will follow you.

Second, find and engage with people in your area that could be interested in the services you offer. Finding them is pretty easy thanks to the advanced Twitter search. When you first start on Twitter you’re going to want to spend a bit of time on that search page as you figure out what search terms (including location) are going to be most valuable to your clinic. Sometimes you’ll have to be creative. For example, if you’re an ortho doctor, you might want to check out search terms and followers of a local youth rec league.

Once you find potential patients on Twitter, follow them from your account and engage with those you find interesting. Just to be clear, a tweet saying “Come visit our office: [LINK]” is not engagement. Offering them answers to their questions or links to appropriate resources (possibly on your website, blog, or Facebook page) is a great form of engagement. You’ll be amazed how consistently following and engaging with potential patients over time will build your Twitter profile. Once they’ve followed your account, you have created a long term connection with that person.

As I suggested in my previous post, Twitter can be a great way to find patients, but it can also be a great way for your practice to connect and learn from peers and colleagues. I’d suggest using different accounts for each effort. The tweets you create for each will likely be quite different so don’t mix the two. However, the same search and engagement suggestions apply whether you’re connecting with patients or colleagues. The search terms will just be quite different.

Physician Review/Rating Websites
There are dozens of physician rating and review websites out there today. Some of the top ones include: Health Grades, Angie’s List, ZocDoc, Yelp, Google Local, and many more. Which of these websites you should engage with usually depends on where you live. In most cases one or two of these websites are dominant in a region. For example, Yelp is extremely popular in San Francisco while Angie’s List is very popular in the south.

Discovering which one is most popular in your region is pretty easy. Many of your patients will have told you that they found your practice through these sites. However, you can also do a search on each of these services and see which ones are most active. A Google search for your specialty and city is another way for you to know which services are likely popular in your area.

Many of these sites will let you claim your profile and be able to respond to any reviews. Do it (although, don’t pay for it). Responding to reviews is a powerful way to engage your patients. If they post a bad review, keep calm and show compassion, understanding, and a willingness to help and that bad review will become good. Plus, that negative review could be an opportunity for you to improve your practice. If they post a good review, show gratitude for them trusting you as their doctor.

Once you’ve discovered which website is most valuable in your region, encourage your satisfied patients to go on that site and post a review of your practice. In some cases that might be handing the patient a reminder to rate you as they leave. In other cases, you might send them an email after their visit asking for them to review you on one of these sites. With mobile phones being nearly ubiquitous, a sign in the office can encourage a review as well.

There are hundreds of social media platforms out there today. However, if you focus on the platforms and techniques I mention above, you’ll be off to a great start. Mastering these techniques will make sure you get the most value out of your social media efforts.

Medical Management Corporation of America, a leading provider of medical billing services, is a proud sponsor of EMR and HIPAA.

What Are The Benefits of a Medical Practice Participating in Social Media?

Posted on November 17, 2014 I Written By

The following is a guest post by Barry Haitoff, CEO of Medical Management Corporation of America.
Barry Haitoff
No doubt social media has become an integral part of many of our lives. We use it in our personal lives and if we don’t use it personally, our children are using it all the time. With nearly 800 million daily active users on Facebook and nearly 300 million monthly active users on Twitter, most medical practices are asking how they could benefit from having their practice participate in social media.

Before I begin with the specific benefits of social media use, I should define how I’m using the term social media. In this case, I’ll be talking about social media in the broadest context. Certainly this would include platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Google+. However, I also include healthcare focused websites like Health Grades, Angie’s List, ZocDoc, Yelp, and many more in this list. Each of these websites or mobile apps has a social aspect to them which allows the practice to engage with patients online.

Now let’s take a look at some of the benefits your practice can receive from your participation in social media.

Be Part of the Discussion – The reality of the internet is that your practice is being discussed online whether you participate or not. Many of the social media sites listed above have already created your profile and patients are talking about their experience at your practice. While you may wish that this wasn’t the case, it’s something that you can’t stop.

Given that you can’t stop patients from posting information about their visit to your office, it really benefits your practice to keep an eye on what’s being said about your practice on these social media sites. If someone posts something nice, that’s an opportunity for your practice to show some gratitude for their kindness. If someone posts something negative, that’s an opportunity for you to show some compassion even when difficult situations arise.

When a negative physician review is shown compassion, understanding, and a willingness to help, it turns a negative into a positive for your practice. Now instead of driving patients away from your practice, a sincere interest in helping the disgruntled patient will drive new patients to your practice who realize that you care about your patients. Of course, if you’re not taking part in social media, that negative comment will remain and discourage patients from ever visiting your office.

First Impressions – One of the first impressions many patients get about your practice is on your website and your social media presence. While it’s not the end all be all for how patients select a doctor, being an active participant in social media shows potential new patients that you’re a progressive organization that stays on top of the latest trends. If you’re not on social media and/or your website looks like it came out of the 90’s, many patients will wonder how well your practice keeps up with more important areas like clinical skills. Right or wrong, we draw these connections between a practice’s online presence and their ability to stay up with the latest medicine.

Engage Current Patients – Social media is a great way for your organization to engage with your current patients. One of the largest sources of new patient referrals comes from existing patients. A simple follow on Twitter or Like on Facebook creates a powerful connection between your practice and your patients. That connection then serves as a reminder to your patients of the services you provide. You’ll be surprised at the serendipity of social media. Your social media post on back pain can often arrive in the same stream as one of your patient’s friend’s complaint of back pain. Now you just gave your previous patient a simple way to refer their friend to you.

Promote High Margin Services – This doesn’t apply to all specialties, but many specialties have high margin services they can offer patients on a repeat basis. Other specialties can remind their patients of annual visits. Social media is a simple, scalable way to inform and remind patients of these high margin services. With the right set of followers, a simple tweet that says “Women, take care of yourself! Don’t forget to get your annual pap smear.” can be a really effective way to drive more patients to your practice.

Local Social Media – One challenge medical practices face is that the majority of their patient population is local. Social media and the internet by its very nature is a national and international tool. However, with the integration of GPS into every phone and location enabled web browsers, the websites and tools to target local people are amazing. Do a simple Twitter search for “back pain” and add your location and you’ll find a captive audience of people with back pain near you. Here’s a simple example I found in NYC. Once you find these potential patients, you can easily follow or engage with their tweet.

Learn from Others – While much of this list has been about driving more high quality patients to your practice, social media can also be an excellent way for doctors, practice managers, billing staff, etc to learn from their peers. You can find a community of peers on social media that are focused on pretty much any element of a medical practice. Many of them are posting amazing content which can help you learn how to do your job better. Plus, as you engage with your peers on social media, you create relationships which can be leveraged to get answers to difficult questions. Not to mention, you’ll receive the satisfaction of helping other people and developing deep friendships with amazing people. Social media is a font of knowledge just waiting for you to tap into it.

In the next post in our series, I’ll look at the tools, techniques, and social media platforms you should use to help you realize the benefits mentioned above. Are there other social media benefits I missed on my list? I’d love to hear how you’re using social media in your practice and the benefits you’ve received from it.

Medical Management Corporation of America, a leading provider of medical billing services, is a proud sponsor of EMR and HIPAA.