Should all health care professionals have a social media presence?

Should all health care professionals have a social media presence?

No, not necessarily.

Did I surprise you? Here I am rattling on and on about how health care professionals should all have a blog, tweet, link up and now I’m saying not everyone needs to hop onto social media.

Let me explain the apparent contradiction.

If you are a solo provider and hope to stay financially solvent, you need to market online. All of my previous advice on social media applies.

But if you are part of a larger medical group or hospital, you don’t really need to jump into social media.

The caveat: someone on your staff does need to get jiggy with a blog and social media outposts on your team’s behalf.

Your practice needs to be online, you, personally, don’t need to be there.

Make sense?

Time, time, so little time

I know health care professionals are busy. Super busy. Days fly by in a blur of patient appointments, emergencies, phone calls (emails? yes, you use email…) and family activities.

Many just don’t feel they have time time to blog, tweet, link. (Though I argue that those who really want to can find the time.) But some people don’t like to write, or feel they don’t have good writing skills,so the thought of dedicating time to this whole social media adventure is unpleasant.

So, no, you don’t have to do it. But you need to find someone who takes on this task.

Who should run your social media show?

There are two ways to coordinate a solid social media presence.

1. Have one person dedicated to the task of blogging and engaging in Twitter, Facebook. This activity will be a significant part of their daily work duties, not squeezed in between patients.  Some practices have administrative staff take this on. Certainly there is benefits in that model. But, I’d like to see health care providers engage, you are the ones with the expertise, after all. And patients want to see a “real doctor” as the face of a practice.

2. Rotate blogging duties among the clinical staff. One person handles Twitter, Facebook, for the practice. Depending on how large your group is, maybe each provider contributes one blog article a month or two. Make this task optional, so those who do choose to engage are motivated and excited to participate. One person coordinates the post schedule and someone takes on the duties of social media. I wouldn’t rotate the social media role. One person gives your practice one, consistent online “voice” that represents your practice. If someone new is Tweeting every day, readers may get confused.

Coordinated presence, coordinated plan

Health care professionals are ready to get involved in social media. Now it comes down to developing goals and systematized plans to leverage the medium effectively.  Not every doctor or therapist needs to tweet between patients or build relationships with those who like their Facebook fan page. Some will want to do this work and should be given the time and space to do so, during working hours, not in the middle of the night or at the crack of dawn.

The return on the investment of paying someone to represent your practice online consists of three parts:

1. Doing your collective part to help people live healthier lives,

2. A practice that is client attractive, and sought out

3. A community of engaged patients who will be willing to invest in health care initiatives that are both covered by insurance and paid out of pocket.

As the accountable care payment model gains traction, there will be competition for “healthy” patients, like it or not. The healthier your patient base, the more money your group gets to keep. And the more low cost prevention you can provide, the healthier your patients and the more global payment money hangs around.

What’s the ROI on health care social media?

When we parse out the approach that one or a few people in each practice are involved in the social media activity, there is a high return on investment if you do it well and consistently. When social media is done with care and planning, more people get accurate health care information and have a more informal, expedient ways to connect with their health care practice so as to partner on being healthier over all.

Susan Giurleo is a psychologist who blogs at the BizSaavy Therapist.

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  • Margalit Gur-Arie

    I thought advertising was not something respectable physicians were supposed to be involved in. So why is indirect advertising through social media any different than other media? Not to mention the explicit goal of attracting healthy patients.

  • Robin Alley

    Margalit Gur-Arie, why do you feel advertising is bad?

    To me, a private practice is a business. An HMO is a business. Word of mouth may be great advertisement, but advertising is in every business plan. I see it as no more un-respectable than a physician being solicited to buy a new ultrasound.

    • Margalit Gur-Arie

      I don’t feel it’s bad or good. I just pointed out that historically, it was not acceptable for physicians. Perhaps times are changing……

  • Susan Giurleo

    Margalit, using social media is not advertising. It’s a way to connect with the public to educate and inform. This goal, by itself, will attract patients to a practice because they get to know, like, and trust those who are connecting with them. The patients who do engage in this way do tend to be more pro-active and healthier because they are invested in learning more about health.

    With that said, health care is a big business here in the US. We are always being asked to keep costs down and patients healthier and this is completely business driven. Helath care is one of the biggest industries in our US economy and physicians are the front line. If health insurers, pharmaceuticals and hospitals can market and advertise, so too can providers.
    And they do. I see ads in the paper, on TV and radio and now these marketing efforts are taking place in social media.

  • Suzen Pettit

    I agree Susan, 100% . Although the trickle down does indeed end up being advertising for the practice, the ROI is so much more than just dollars. Doctors and patients both complain that there is not enough face time these days with their doctors, that their needs and questions are glossed over and that they feel rushed through their 8 minute appointments. Doctors feel the pressure as well but have no choice because of the rising costs of doing business. Social media serves triple duty in that it allows the doctor, to share his/her voice outside of regular office hours, to disperse wellness advice, articles, etc., to address a particular concern. For patients this additional info is invaluable and allows them to see the human side of their doctor and be the recipient of additional care. The perk that it markets the doctor? That’s a good thing, isn’t it?? With the growing number of review sites out there, doctors now more than ever need to be marketing themselves to protect their reputations and to sustain and grow their practices. It’s a new dawn out there!!

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