Do’s and Don’ts of Healthcare Social Media

Gretchen Kalthoff

Gretchen Kalthoff

Posted on November 06, 2015

social media
Did you know that over 70% of adults with online access use some form of social media? For users between the ages of 18 and 29, that number increases to over 90%.
Social media has had a rapid rise in the past decade, with companies steadily expanding its role in the marketing mix. With the ability to connect with consumers while also building brand awareness, it’s clear that it can be an incredibly powerful tool for business.
Yet on the flip side, especially for medical practices, it can also present a range of challenges. However, rather than letting these prevent you from fully engaging in social media, simply understanding the do’s and don’ts as we explain here will give you the necessary know-how to take advantage of medical marketing services and understand how social media can improve your practice.
DO keep messages simple. Quickly engage the reader and use plain, everyday language that is easy to understand. Limit the use of technical or scientific language, keep messages short and write in a friendly but professional tone.
Good examples:

  • It is normal to experience some stress in day-to-day life. It is a mental or physical reaction to problems.
  • Follow these rules to avoid getting sick from food:
  1. Wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly
  2. After handling raw meat, always wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds
  3. Thoroughly cook meat until it is no longer pink inside

Weak examples:

  • Foodborne illness, commonly know as food poisoning, is the result of eating contaminated, spoiled or toxic food.
  • Stress is the nonspecific response to any demand for changes in life and activates the release of stress hormones such as cortisol.

DO partner with staff and assign one person to manage social media accounts. Identify one person within your organization to manage your social media presence, and involve other staff members to contribute their ideas for material.
DO create content that is useful and/or educational and meaningful. Social media is an excellent way to keep patients informed and up to date with health information and helps to build the credibility and expertise of your medical practice. You can post information on the latest treatments and advancements in your area and can also subtly market your business with information about your practice and the services that you offer.
DO post new content frequently. Keep customers engaged with your brand by posting information on a regular basis – just ensure that each post is valuable and you have something new and interesting to say. If you offer any new services, or change opening hours, let your consumers know through social media channels.
DO identify who you want to talk to. Knowing your target audience can greatly help you understand what is important to them and create relevant messages. Talk to staff and look at current information that you have about your consumers to help get a handle on the type of things they might be interested in.
DO ensure you have a written social media policy in place that includes how the company is represented online, as well as provisions on the use of social media by employees.
DON’T use social media to communicate with patients about their medical conditions or treatments. HIPAA has very stringent guidelines in place and communicating with patients in this way can violate those guidelines. (It’s alright, though, to answer non-medical questions over social media – like “what are your practice’s hours?”)
DON’T post information that could harm or damage your professional reputation. Remember that everything you put online (including posts and pictures) can be viewed by the public, so make sure it reflects your medical practice in a positive way. Likewise, never combine your professional and personal social media accounts.
DON’T provide specific medical advice or try to diagnose or doctor online. Post general information that is relevant and educational, which helps to position your credibility in the medical field. If patients have specific health questions, direct them to call or visit your medical practice.
DON’T discuss or respond to patient complaints online. The best way to handle a complaint, or a negative review that has been posted for everyone to see is to acknowledge it publicly but take the conversation offline. Suggest to the person to message you in private which allows the public to see that patient satisfaction is important while also taking the details of the complaint away from the public eye.
DON’T write about an actual patient story or case. While the HIPAA Privacy Rule allows social media posting with all personal identifying information removed and any revealing references removed, it can be more difficult than might be expected to protect a person’s identity. To ensure you don’t breach patient privacy, it is strongly recommended to refrain from posting de-identified cases online.
Used wisely and with a good understanding of the “do’s and don’ts,” social media is a powerful platform to market your medical services. It offers the opportunity to promote individual and public health in addition to building your professional reputation by connecting with other medical professionals.

Gretchen Kalthoff

Gretchen Kalthoff

Gretchen Kalthoff is a writer and marketing specialist for MWE. She is an expert in healthcare marketing and health IT with a special interest in increasing patient engagement through social media and healthcare technologies.

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