Twitter for Physicians

July 22, 2010
Lucien W. Roberts

I avoid most e-mail offers trying to sell me something; don't need the superfluous e-mails cluttering up my inbox.

I avoid most e-mail offers trying to sell me something; don’t need the superfluous e-mails cluttering up my inbox. I don’t share a daily update via Facebook, or water anybody’s plants in FarmVille (the newest Facebook craze). Am I odd?

No surprise then that I don’t use Twitter, and I’m not on anybody’s twit list. Two reasons: First, and with all due respect to twits and Twitterers alike, I don’t need a play-by-play of your day. Happy you stopped by the cleaners, sorry you overslept by 10 minutes, but I don’t really need to know about either.

Second, there’s the 140 character limit for each Tweet; I have trouble with 500 word limits on articles. I am not sure I can say anything that matters in 140 characters - and yes, I left that door wide open.

So much for disclaimers. I believe Twittering has a place in medical practices, used judiciously and in moderation. Used judiciously and in moderation, I repeat. Too innocuous or too many, and your patients won’t be able to see the forest for the Tweets. Bad puns aside, Twittering can help your medical practice.

How tweets can help

Filling your schedule. Had it up to here with patients cancelling their appointments on short notice? Twittering is a great way to let patients know you have just-opened spots in your schedule. First come, first served - patients like it, your front office will like it better than calling ten patients to fill one slot, and your bottom line will love it.

Clinical research studies. Trying to enroll patients for a new clinical research study? Tweet a link to the clinical research page of your Web site. Make it part of your patient recruitment strategy - you won’t know if it works until you try it.

Just arrived: flu vaccine. Wanna be a superhero? Come November, tweet about the shipment of flu vaccine that just arrived. It works. And if you are out of vaccine and don’t expect any shipments, Tweet a Web site link to places that still have flu vaccine. Your patients will be most appreciative.

New, new, new. Tweet about a new provider, a new office, new extended hours, or a new service. Include a link to your Web site for more details.

Patient education. Tweet about upcoming seminars or webinars. Remind patients of the patient education pages on your Web site.

Job posting. This can be a tricky one; you may not want one of your patients to be your employee. But if your patients tell their friends that your practice has an opening and is a great place to work, you just might strike gold.

467 words and 2,771 characters later, I think I’ve become a Twitter convert. Even if used just for filling open slots in the appointment schedule, Twitter can help today’s medical practice run more efficiently. It can supplement other marketing efforts and help your practice connect with those patients who use Twitter.

Using Twitter in your practice? Join the conversation at Practice Notes, the Physicians Practice blog, and let others know what works and what doesn’t. Practices need every break they can get these days, and sharing ideas within the community remains the most effective way to improve our practices.

Lucien W. Roberts, III, MHA, FACMPE, is associate administrator of business development at MCV Physicians. He also consults with medical groups and health systems in areas such as compliance, physician compensation, negotiation, strategic planning, and billing/collections. He may be reached at lucien.roberts@yahoo.com.

*Editor’s Note: Last year when parents were madly dashing from their doctor’s office to the local drugstores, trying to secure the H1N1 vaccine for their children, I, too, was in the fray. After checking the usual suspects - doctor’s office, hospital - I decided to go online and check the local health department. Yes, they did indeed have the flu vaccine; but after spending several hours trying to get an appointment by phone, I was ready to give up. Imagine my delight when their Web site informed me to check out their Twitter feed. “Try calling at 2,” said the tweet. I did and was rewarded with the elusive appointment.