Use Social Media to Improve Patient Safety & Build Trust With Your Patients

Diagram by Robert Scoble from Flickr

You may be thinking, “another blog post on social media?!?!?!”  Well, don’t let the constant chatter about Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogging, and the ever-growing world of social media get “old” just yet. For many medical professionals social media is still a new and foreign world, and for some, it can be difficult to understand exactly how to use social media tools.

There are several key elements to using social media as a physician, and they are consistency, transparency, and credibility. If you keep these three elements at the forefront of your purpose in using social media when communicating with your followers, friends, and connections, social media will prove to be a tool that enables you to improve patient safety and build trust with your current and prospective patients.

In general, social media is used to share information and stay abreast of new developments. Many large organizations, hospitals, and foundations have begun to use social media to expand the reach of information disseminated by traditional media. This means people are receiving information more quickly than ever before. So how can use this to your advantage while improving patient safety and building trust with your patients? You must become a trusted source of information to those who subscribe to your social media outlets. And, to become a trusted source you must apply the three fundamental elements of social media success for medical professionals: consistency, transparency, and credibility.

Consistency – With social media, you get what you give. To realize the full benefits of social media for your practice and your patients you must engage in discussions and participate regularly with your audience. If you only use your social media tools sporadically, you are likely to see little advantage in social media. People who use social media are information seekers and want to have their questions and concerns addressed. These users will become loyal to those medical professionals who can meet those needs.

Transparency – People look to social media to see what other people, organizations, and thought leaders are “really saying.” Always maintain your professional standard of ethics and truthfulness in all of your social media exposure. By communicating in a candid and educational manner you can educated your current and prospective patients about the things they can do to improve their health and manage their healthcare needs. Also, consider using social media to inform patients of health news, recent research, patient education resources, and emergency regulatory announcements.  As you use these platforms in this manner you improve your patient’s awareness and in turn improve their safety.

Credibility – Applying the first two elements of consistency and transparency largely contribute to this last element of credibility. Social media users connect with those sources that they trust. It is your job to establish this trust with your users. To achieve credibility with your followers, friends, and connections always be sure that you:

–          Can verify any information you share or at least point to an original source.

–          Correct any misinformation you may have shared in the past.

–          Address negative comments about you or your medical practice.

–          Engage in conversations with your audience.

–          Always represent yourself, your practice and your staff truthfully. Failure to obey this rule will destroy your credibility both online and offline.

The use of social media will only expand across industries, including the healthcare industry, in the time to come. In fact, according to Ed Bennett, author of the blog Found In Cache, as of January 10, 2010, 540 hospitals in the US are using social media tools, which include 247 YouTube Channels, 316 Facebook pages, 419 Twitter Accounts, and 67 Blogs!

What are YOU waiting for? Using social media will enable your patients to be better informed about you and your practice, not to mention, it will provide you with the data you need to improve your practice based of their feedback and commentary!

Follow these simple social media guidelines and over time you will enhance your reputation and generate online word-of-mouth recognition for yourself and your medical practice. A word of caution to those new to social media: remember to have fun! If you don’t enjoy connecting with your audience and using social media, it simply won’t work for you. There are numerous affordable, ethical, and effective methods to grow and market your medical practice. If used correctly, social media can be one of them.

Rx MD Marketing Solutions provides full service marketing for doctors, marketing for physicians, marketing for cosmetic surgeons, marketing for dermatologists, marketing for aesthetics, marketing for general practice physicians, and marketing for dentists. We are more than medical marketing consultants; we help explode the profits of your medical practice!

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