To some of us of a certain age, social media still seems like the latest fad. But would you believe that Facebook has been around for more than 15 years? LinkedIn has been around even longer, and Twitter, the youngster of the category, is 13 years old.
Social media has proven it has staying power. People of all ages rely on it to stay in touch with colleagues, friends, and family, so it only makes sense that businesses have found it to be an effective marketing and communications platform. Its low costs and immediacy make it hard to beat—and your practice can take advantage of these things, too.
Best of all, at least in my book: Social media can make many tasks easier for you and your staff. Here are three ways it can help, all free, that you might not have tried.
Consult your tribe
One of the best ways to take advantage of social media is to use it for research and networking. You can do this even if you haven’t yet set up a business presence for your practice.
There are many excellent groups related to practice management (or specific sub-topics, like billing, credentialing, and healthcare technology) on Facebook. These groups offer an easy way to connect with people from around the country and exchange ideas or problem-solve. For example, in the Medical Practice Managers group on Facebook, members have recently posted questions on topics like choosing a new phone system, implementing a check-in kiosk, resolving a poor claim clearance rate, and setting up an integrated payroll and time-clock system. Join these groups under your real name and you can get recommendations or help brainstorming almost any practice management issue. (Tip: use the search function in the group to find previous posts on the subject you’re researching. There is often a trove of information already posted.)
Even when no one has posted about your specific issue, you’ll usually find that people are eager to help and quick to try.
Like Facebook, LinkedIn has many practice management related groups. It’s a bit more formal than Facebook, but LinkedIn also lets you keep track of your past work colleagues who may have gone on to have new experiences in different healthcare environments. For example, a former colleague who’s moved on to another job may be using technology that’s new to you. What better, easier way to get an honest review of a system you’re considering than to ask a trusted friend?
Make short(er) work of hiring
It’s well-known that social media sites offer job postings. Paying for these services can be a good way to reach more candidates quickly. But did you know that there are still ways to use social media to get free attention for your open jobs?
Many groups on Facebook and LinkedIn allow you to share a job posting from your own website or even a third-party site. With a little bit of effort, you’ll get your listing in front of colleagues who may know someone who’s looking for a position just like the one you’re trying to fill. Of course, you can always share your postings on your own feed, too.
If your practice has a business page, so much the better. A dashboard tool like Hootsuite or SocialBee can help you automate the re-posting of jobs (and other pages) from your own website to both your personal and business social media profiles. Write it once and automatically publish it in multiple locations to increase your reach—with (virtually) no extra effort.
Let your patients find their own answers
One of my favorite uses for social media is to cut down on phone calls from patients with similar questions. Often, a hot news item or seasonal issue will interest many of your patients (i.e. if a popular drug is recalled, a new study contradicts previous advice about diet, or if patients are concerned about a new virus). When physicians have provided a standard response, posting it on social media pages can help patients get the answer they’re looking for more quickly. Patients with more complicated situations can, and should, still be encouraged to call, but sharing general knowledge on social media can reduce the volume of more basic questions.
Even questions like, “Is your office open today?” (relevant in snow season!) can be answered en masse on your social media page. Seasonal questions and promotions are a perfect fit, too. (“Still need a flu shot? We’re offering them on a walk-in basis on Thursday.” “School physicals have started—sign up for your child’s visit today.”)
Laurie Morgan, MBA is a partner and senior consultant for Capko & Morgan. Her consulting focuses on practice management effectiveness and practice profitability. She is the author of the book People, Technology, Profit: Practical Ideas for a Happier, Healthier Practice business as well as the Management Rx series of e-books, and blogs at capko.com/blog.