Social Media in Healthcare: Is There ROI?

October 20, 2011

You’re trying to build your practice, to recruit and retain good staff ... Do you really have time to “play around with Facebook?”

You’ve certainly heard a lot of hype about Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogging, etc.

You’ve been told that you - the doctor - needs to get busy on social networks; to "get with the program;” to “get engaged.” You’re already busy; maybe even overwhelmed.

You’re trying to build your practice, to recruit and retain good staff, to write something for your quarterly newsletter, to write something for that brochure for the hospital, to connect with your referring physicians, to be recognized by your patient community as the expert that you are, etc.

Do you really have time to “play around with Facebook”?

Is It Worth The Effort?
Is this a fad or trend that only applies to ‘social’ or ‘personal’ circles?
Isn’t it just for teenagers?
Does it have true “business benefits?”
Will it help your practice?
In short - is there a return on investment (ROI)?

The short answer is yes - but let’s dive a little deeper.

First, let’s define RETURN:
Here we mean the benefits you achieve for a given investment. Your specific practice goals determine what returns to measure. Some examples include:

Financial / increased patients
Increased efficiency / optimizing time
Elevated brand / reputation
Direct connection with patient communities
Improved connection with referring physicians
Enhanced patient education
Enhanced patient advocacy


 

*Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, Pew Research Center

**The Intuit Health Second Annual Health Care Check-Up Survey (January 2011)

How can Social Media provide these RETURNS?

Leverage: Think of it as “digital word of mouth” - social media amplifies word of mouth. When your delighted patient sits face-to-face and tells a couple friends about what a great doctor you are, it’s one-on-one, or maybe one-on-a-few. On social media, they share their opinion with thousands! They may post their opinion on their Facebook page; they may Tweet it to a thousand of their “closest friends,” who then re-Tweet it to a thousand of their friends, etc. That is amplification. That is leverage.

Referrals from other physicians: Depending on your area of expertise, referrals from other physicians may be critical. Social media tools provide another channel to connect and build relationships with “referring” physicians.

Visibility to patients looking for healthcare information: According to reports from Pew Research, and Deloitte Healthcare Consulting, the majority of adults are finding their healthcare information - and their physicians - in the digital world, online. Being visible in the digital world to the e-patient is critical in “getting found.” The majority of patients reported that they would switch to a doctor who had greater online presence. You want more patients? Be present in the digital world.

More direct connection with your patient community: This is something that is not possible with traditional media. Social media allows us to continue to relationship beyond the exit door of our clinics.

Operational efficiency: A well-designed website and digital presence can improve operational efficiency of your clinic in many ways - reduce use of call lines and nurse triage lines; streamline patient registration; streamline clinic throughput; improve patient education; and many other ways.

Now, let’s define the INVESTMENT:

The cost all boils down to technology and time.

The technology investment in social media is minimal. Unlike traditional marketing channels, your social media presence is “free.” That is, opening an account on Facebook or Twitter or YouTube (etc.) is usually free. Even purchasing a domain name and setting up a website is inexpensive. If you have a computer and an Internet connection, you can be connected to the social networks.

The greatest expense simply becomes time. You may be thinking, “time is not free” - of course not, but there are strategies and technologies that help to optimize it. As we will see in my next blog, even when your time is valued at hundreds of dollars per hour, the ROI simply cannot be matched by traditional marketing channels.

Social media is a very powerful marketing tool. More importantly, compared to traditional marketing (TV/radio/print advertising; meet-and-greets, etc.) it is extremely cost effective.

Although we wouldn’t recommend completely replacing your traditional marketing programs with a social marketing program, the goal is to shift some of the budget dollars to social media - where you’ll get a bigger “bang for your buck.” And a better ROI.

In my next post, I’ll discuss how to measure ROI in healthcare social media.

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