social media for healthcare

The use of social media in healthcare has become a growing trend. Healthcare organizations are using social media channels like Facebook and Twitter to engage with their past, present and future patients. Why? Communication. Patients no longer have to rely on advertising when choosing a healthcare facility. They can make their decision based on trust. Social media in healthcare allows professionals to demonstrate their expertise through interaction.

social media in healthcareHow is it being used?

  • To paint your patients a picture of your organization’s mission.
  • To highlight the services you offer and how they can help a customer’s specific situation.
  • To educate the public about wellness and promote healthy lifestyles.
  • To offer forums for people seeking support or advice about a patient’s sickness.
  • To encourage other organizations to contribute to your organization’s efforts.
  • To recruit healthcare professionals for your facility.

What are the benefits?

  1. Positive feedback. Past and current patients could say positive things about your facility. They could share a positive experience about their stay, their results, their doctor, etc. and tag or mention your facility in their post. This will also give your facility to respond to their post and recognize them, establishing a relationship. When potential patients see that others had positive experiences, it may positively influence their decision. This feedback will also help you to highlight your organization or facility’s strong suits.
  2. Constructive criticism. Of course, opening up a channel for communication between you and your patients could also invite negative feedback. But either way, they’re engaging with you. After they’ve offered criticism, you can direct the conversation. You can thank them for their comments, offer a solution or use the opportunity to improve your services. Handling criticism will help you maintain confidence.
  3. Personal connection. Posting pictures and videos of the goings-on in your facility may make your social media followers feel a personal connection to your organization. By posting pictures of professionals, patients and their families, your followers can see the faces behind the information. For instance, your healthcare facility could share a patient’s survival story on YouTube. People would be able to see your services and success firsthand.

What are the risks?

  1. Loose lips. Your organization cannot control what its patients say on social media. They may say something that can damage your facility’s reputation — whether it’s accurate or not. Also, you or one of your employees could say something on social media that might rub people the wrong way. It could be something incorrect or offensive. One false or tasteless statement could turn patients and prospects away.
  2. Patient privacy. While sharing pictures of and information about patients does promote positivity, it could also violate their privacy. They may not want these things shared on social media. Also, if a healthcare employee posts private information on their personal page – even if they don’t use any names — they run the risk of causing privacy violation problems. Furthermore, you never know how communication will be received by patients and their families. Even reaching out to them to offer support, advice or condolences could be breaching their privacy. Boundary issues and care disparity claims could result. Making them feel uncomfortable may not be a good thing for your relationship.

Although there are some risks, social media can be helpful to the healthcare industry when it is used to communicate carefully and considerately. Healthcare organizations and facilities have to be especially careful when posting online, because they are dealing directly with people’s personal lives. So as with any social media page, think before you post!