Social Media for Healthcare Providers
Beyond the exam room: how healthcare providers can effectively use social media
When the healthcare landscape meets the digital landscape, it seems like the possibilities are endless. But your time? That is certainly not endless. Don’t worry though, you don’t need to be on every platform to establish a presence. Picking one and doing it well helps ease the pressure social media can present.
After all, the average social media user in the United States has at least seven social media accounts and spends a little over two hours daily on those accounts. With providers only getting about 20 minutes of face-to-face time with each patient, being on at least one social media platform elevates healthcare beyond the exam room.
The options feel overwhelming, though. Narrowing down which social media platforms to use and which ones to lose means asking yourself one simple question — what is your ultimate goal? Do you want to educate your patients? Do you want to advocate for issues that you are passionate about? Are you looking to humanize healthcare and break down barriers between patient and provider? The goal you have for social media will help determine which platforms you need to be on and which ones you don’t. There is room for crossover between them, but focusing on one goal and one social media platform will save you time while maximizing your efforts.
The three e’s of social media: educate, entertain and engage
Patients are using the internet now more than ever to take control of their health. We all know someone who has self-diagnosed via a search engine and it can oftentimes become a barrier to your care plan. We break down the three e’s of social media below so you can bridge the gap between digital care and patient care.
- Use social media to provide patient education. Discuss symptoms, treatments, conditions and diseases in a way that helps point patients away from digital misinformation. Do not confuse education with treatment. Stick to the facts and use reputable source materials.
- Don’t let this one intimidate you. You don’t have to be a great dancer or know the latest and greatest music hits. Entertainment on social media can be a “behind-the-scenes” look at the surgical unit or a quick question and answer with your patient access expert on common billing questions. You can snap a picture of your office on their lunch break or share funny memes about colonoscopy prep.
- Although both education and entertainment are a form of engagement, this one is about building community. The engagement part of social media comes down to a genuine connection with people who share a commonality. Responding to posts, answering questions and connecting patients to resources are just a few ways you can achieve that goal. Remember though, you cannot diagnose or treat a patient through social media. Engaging in social media means supporting patients, not treating them.
Social media platforms to Educate
YouTube is the most effective video platform for healthcare education because it is the one platform where viewers are still willing to watch long-form videos. Topics can include educational videos, procedures and surgeries, as well as seminars, therapies and general healthcare content . Protect yourself with disclaimers, stating that you cannot diagnose or treat individuals and that all viewers should consult a physician, before every video. Additionally, make sure you know workplace’s social media policies.
Social media platforms to entertain
TikTok is, by and large, the trendiest way to interact with patients. This platform relies on short-form videos with little to no captions and relevant hashtags to capture a user's attention fast. TikTok’s algorithm adapts quickly to what a user is watching, how long they are viewing a video and what kind of interactions they are having so that the feed is catered exactly to their preferences. But underneath the dancing, music and viral trends, there are genuine opportunities to make a difference . Iinitially geared towards Gen Z, TikTok has now found its way into the homes of multiple generations with a wide variety of backgrounds. As a provider, you can have fun with a sneak peek into your life, answer burning healthcare questions and showcase the fun side of your job. If you are looking to grow a following fast, TikTok should be your priority.
If your patient population is under 25 or you want to reach that patient population, don’t be afraid to venture into the world of Snapchat . Snapchat is another video platform that allows users to have fun with filters and sounds, however, what you upload disappears within a day. Skin care, sexual wellness and mental health are among the many popular topics that Gen Z want to know more about from the comfort of their phones. You can catch their attention with filters, music and captivating visuals while still sharing relevant information.
Social media platforms to engage
The great part about starting a Facebook page or group is that it could be a one-stop shop for your social media endeavors. You can entertain with reels, engage in groups and educate through your page. And since Facebook is the largest social media platform in the United States, engaging with people and communities has powerful potential. Creating pages and groups dedicated to your practice or personal passion allows you to answer questions in real time. Your platform can also foster a sense of belonging to people who share the same experiences.
LinkedIn is not just for business professionals anymore. There is a network of healthcare providers and industry experts that use LinkedIn for personal and professional development. See what other clinics and hospitals are doing, share ideas from your own experiences and provide support for industry peers. LinkedIn can help build on the hard work you have been putting in professionally to advance your thoughts and ideas.
Together, healthcare and social media can make impactful change
Social media and healthcare are no longer two separate worlds. By following the guidelines of informed consent, HIPAA and social media policies, you can still protect yourself and your patients, but the opportunities for impactful change are endless. Keep your goal in mind, pick one platform, and you will find it easy to establish your voice and make a difference far beyond your exam room.