Enhancing the Patient Experience: The Basic Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media

“The Patient Experience” is a big umbrella. Medical practices, hospitals and healthcare providers try hard to deliver a good measure of satisfaction with each patient visit. But the tricky part is…the patient experience usually begins long before the office appointment, and it continues long after.

Reaching these healthcare consumers—patients, prospective patients, family, caregivers—increasingly relies on using social media tools. Properly used, online connections can shape expectations, engage and enhance relationships, support healthier lifestyles, and contribute significantly to the organization’s overall patient experience in many ways.

Having and using a social media program is an important aspect of healthcare marketing plans, and a primary online means for the medical world to engage patients in their own healthcare. In fact, social media has moved into the mainstream. According to the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) recent Health Research Institute report, Healthcare “Likes” Social Media, one-third of the 1060 adults surveyed now use social media for reasons related to health.

Asked whether they trust information that healthcare providers post on social media, 61 percent said yes, and 45 percent said their privacy is not of concern if participating in social media helps them get information that can help them be healthier.

What’s more, an effective social media program doesn’t have to be complicated, time-consuming or expensive. It can (and should be) simple and straightforward, even fun.

The four cornerstone platforms of social media

If patient engagement is your goal, there are four primary platforms to establish an online presence (in addition to your website.) These are YouTube and Facebook, which are the most popular social media platforms overall and tops in the healthcare category. These two lend themselves naturally to the sharing of health information. Next are: Twitter—a great way to display your expertise in your specialty—and Pinterest, an online bulletin board format.

YouTube You can use online video to introduce yourself and your staff, to explain the benefits of your services or particular procedures, as an educational tool, and for patient testimonials. Other examples include after-surgery instructions, instructions for blood pressure at home, or using compression stockings.

Do: YouTube content can be self-produced, but a professional appearance is vital. It should be brief, casual and conversational. If you have lots to say, break it up into several short videos. YouTube is especially terrific for how-to information.

Don’t: The ultimate mistake is posting dull and boring content.

Facebook Think of Facebook as an extension of your website, but with a livelier, more engaging and informal feel. Your Facebook page should provide practical information (address, hours, etc.) and should feature content that is beneficial to visitors, enticing them to come back for more. Some examples: motivating and encouraging healthy lifestyle, proper nutrition or low-impact exercises.

Do: Facebook can provide information about staying healthy, or it can post timely (such as seasonal) health tips. Make content engaging by asking questions (it’s as simple as saying, Agree? Disagree?) or inviting people to share tips, ideas and photos.

Don’t: Ignore your Facebook page. If the information is old, your “fans” will go elsewhere.

Twitter In the healthcare world, Twitter can be immensely helpful for sharing information that is of-the-moment, like vaccination reminders or public health announcements. Hospitals increasingly use Twitter to enhance patient service and satisfaction and respond to real time concerns or non-medical questions.

Do: Use Twitter to show your expertise, offering your own interpretation or opinion, for example, on health news or new developments in the medical field.

Don’t: Overshare—no one cares what you ate for breakfast unless the information has the potential to improve their lives too.

Pinterest Though it is primarily a medium for visual display, Pinterest is fun and interesting for visitors, useful for patient education and for motivating people to stick with healthy habits.

Do: Use Pinterest to share tips, such as workout suggestions or healthy recipes. Be aware that the vast majority of Pinterest users are women. On Pinterest, it’s all about the look and feel—think “bulletin board” and pin content that is visually attractive and appealing.

Don’t: Let the energy down. If your content is dull, irrelevant or uninteresting, or your content doesn’t change, people lose interest.

These four are the basic building blocks. Take them one at a time or begin with the tools that best fit your situation. Social media is pervasive and your patients are already online. You’ve got a lot to add to their conversation. Social media can be a positive force in the patient’s experience.

About Stewart Gandolf, MBA

Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is both the Publisher of PatientExperience.com and the Co-Founder of Healthcare Success. Stewart has written for dozens of leading healthcare publications and spoken at hundreds of venues on a variety of topics including marketing, reputation management and patient experience. Additionally, he has personally consulted for over 1,500 hospitals and practices. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Stewart worked for leading advertising agencies including J. Walter Thompson.


One Response to Enhancing the Patient Experience: The Basic Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media

  1. Denny May 21, 2013 at 8:21 am #

    @Stewart – The part that seems to be missing with healthcare attempts to be more social is the overall philosophy of user generated content. IMO facebook etc is popular b/c of peer to peer communication. All of the attempts i have seen in healthcare have been an effort to push information to the patient; while the ability for them to comment and/or share in a manner deemed useful or interesting seems like an afterthought.
    My opinion is that the platforms above are used for other interests and that one focused on overall population health primarily is needed, but it has to offer the masses a compelling reason to use/join on a consistent basis.
    I am working on this solution and would love to get your input.

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