Social media is an enormous part of our lives — Facebook has more than 1.8 billion active users per month, and Twitter has upwards of 300 million active users in the same amount of time. In spite of this massive social media immersion, these platforms haven't seen much penetration within the medical industry. How can doctors use social media to better interact with their patients while improving the care they provide?
Social media can be useful for simple administrative tasks, such as posting office hours and appointment availability. For existing patients, social media can link to appointment scheduling software or websites, or secure websites where they can log in to view their medical information.
For new patients, the convenience of being able to find office hours or a contact number could be the difference between making an appointment at one doctor's office instead of another. Medical practices that put the effort into keeping social media pages and profiles up to date with office contact information and hours may see more patients coming in.
Taking this concept even further, social messaging apps and telemedicine websites make it possible for patients to receive treatments for any number of health issues, without the need for face-to-face appointments.
Educating Patients and Future Patients
People turn to social media for everything from questions about their favorite businesses to answers about medical symptoms and financial queries. More people get breaking news updates from social media than from news outlets. In fact, in 2016, 62 percent of U.S. adults said they consumed news through social media, with 18 percent of adults saying they rely on social media for news "often."
Medical professionals can capitalize on social media users by providing accurate information through sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
Some good examples of doctors already doing this are Dr. Sandra Lee, a dermatologist in West Los Angeles, and Dr. Howard Luks, an orthopedic surgeon in New York.
Lee goes by "Dr. Pimple Popper" on her popular YouTube channel, where she showcases various dermatological procedures, from blackhead removal to skin cancer surgery. Her videos also focus on skin health and are a great resource for individuals concerned about their skin.
Luks has a following on multiple social media sites, though most of his followers are on Twitter. He also uploads videos to YouTube that explain various orthopedic injuries and offers information about both traditional and innovative treatment options for common injuries.
For individuals who need support for their condition or diagnosis, social media can be an invaluable tool. Especially for people who want to seek help anonymously, social platforms have become especially popular.
Because apps and social media platforms are so convenient, they're often an easy way for people to start seeking treatment, even if that seeking is as simple as reading forums or following specific social accounts.
Improving Patient Interaction
As a patient, sometimes the hardest thing in the world is to get in touch with your doctor, especially when you just need to ask a quick question or have something you're concerned about.
Social media could provide a new level of interaction between medical professionals and their patients. Even if doctors can't be accessible all day long due to a highly demanding schedule, there are a variety of ways they can use social media to interact with patients, including:
•Office hours — Set up scheduled hours to answer questions directed at a Facebook or Twitter page.
•Social media team — Doctors who receive a lot of traffic on social media sites may want to consider designating a staff person to respond to postings.
Social platforms provide a good way for doctors to keep in touch with patients, and potentially bring new patients into the office at the same time. Though the Internet obviously isn't a medium for sharing private patient information, it's ideal for general Q&A-type conversations.
Promoting New Research or Relevant Information
Medical practices may not seem like an industry that lends itself to social media promotions, but depending on a practice's the specialty, it can be a great way to bring in patients.
For example, with something seasonal like flu shots, a doctor's office can post to their various social media pages to encourage preventive care. That little reminder not only helps bring patients in, but ensures patients and followers stay healthy throughout flu season.
Social media is growing every day — it's hard to find a business now that doesn't have some form of social media presence.
Healthcare professionals can take their medical practice to the next level by taking advantage of established social platforms to reach patients, and potential patients, where they already are.