Social Media provides online platforms and comprises of various approaches like blogs, microblogging (eg Twitter), social networking (eg Facebook and Patients Like Me), video and file sharing sites (eg YouTube) and wikis. It has been documented that at least 80% patients across America seek health information online, and around 67% of all internet using Americans utilize social media. People use social media to search for health information for educating themselves, to network, research on their own illness, seek support groups, and even track their personal progress on some health media sites. However, social media for physicians is still catching up. Nearly 61% of patients surveyed by PwC health research Institute stated that people tend to trust what physicians post! What better way than for physicians to combine healthcare and social media into a prescription for enhanced patient engagement?
- Open access to Health Information: With access to information on your site, patients get an understanding of your knowledge and awareness of the updates in the medical field with respect to treatment and alternatives that you share online
- Educating patients & Community: Use of social media by physicians can help them educate their patients about many diseases, ways to recognize symptoms much earlier than later, take precaution during certain outbreaks, seasonal changes, etc. This will get people to turn to your website looking for information. A quick facts column makes easy and quick reading. Also specific information which talks about how new laws can bring changes in their insurance coverage, etc cutting down the complexity will help patients turn to your site.
- Initiating Events & Screenings via online Dialogues: By participating in some forums, physicians can listen and enter into dialogues as to what patients want in order to help improve their health and what the barriers are and how physicians can step in to make things easier. This by itself draws patients to a physicians’ practice when he steps up and initiates events, screenings, or workshops that benefit the community.
- Positive Responses to negative comments: With the value based services kicking in as against the older model of fee-based services, reimbursements will now be given based on the quality of care based on the ratings by patients. Here, how physicians interact with patients, how they network with other specialties for patient’s illness, and guide patients towards better healthcare is being monitored. So how physicians react or respond to negative comments on social media sites and the kind of remedial measures undertaken will immediately make visible how proactive physicians are.
- Employing mass messages: With the ACA, more footfalls are expected. Handling precautions and advice for one-on-one may now need to be turned into mass messages especially during seasonal outburst like flu or hay fever time. Precautionary measures via mass messages via email or Twitter to the community will definitely earn physicians brownie points as one who cares.
However, when employing social media for one’s practice, certain precautions and guidelines need to be followed as mentioned by the American Medical Association and the Federation of State Medical Boards.