Why Healthcare Providers Should Embrace Criticism on Social Media – and How to Handle It

Social media has revolutionized how we communicate, interact and make decisions – and it is an essential part of any business’ marketing strategy. Yet despite the many benefits that social media marketing can provide, healthcare organizations have typically been slow to join the online conversation.

In the past couple of years, however, this trend has slowly started to change. Physician practices, hospitals and healthcare systems have started putting their differences with social networks aside in order to build interactive online communities and strengthen relationships with patients.

Having an online presence allows healthcare organizations to:

  • social mediaFind out what patients are saying
  • Manage customer relations
  • Identify areas for improvement
  • Increase patient engagement
  • Grow their brand

Depending on your organization’s patient base and resources, you may choose to set up social media profiles on just one network or several. Facebook tends to be the most popular – and it is fairly simple, even for novices, to create a free page.

The next most-used social network is Twitter. It is used by many hospitals and urgent care facilities to post updates on wait times and upcoming events and to provide patients with useful information about health-related topics.

Of course, establishing social media profiles can also have its drawbacks. Social networks serve as effective patient communication tools, but they can also be venues for patients to post criticisms and complaints. For hospitals and practices, knowing how to manage these types of comments can mean the difference between a marketing success and a social media flop.

Here are two steps for handling negative social media comments with care and using patient complaints to your advantage:

1. Identify the problem.

Not every negative comment posted on your Facebook wall or mentioned in a tweet on Twitter will be true. Patients often post things out of anger and sometimes due to a lack of knowledge. However, your job is to take every piece of criticism seriously and try to get to the root of the problem.

For example, imagine your social media team is monitoring Twitter and sees the following post from a patient: “I’ve been waiting in the ER at @thishospital for 2hrs. Longest waiting times ever!” What would you do? One course of action would be to find out who the patient is, how long they have been waiting and why, as there could be several reasons for the patient’s extended wait.

  • Perhaps they forgot to check in.
  • Maybe the patient’s name was called when they stepped outside to make a phone call.
  • The front desk could have misplaced their registration forms.
  • Or maybe your hospital really does have long wait times.

Whatever the problem is, it is important to identify it. This will allow you to address it.

2. Fix it.

After you have identified the problem, take the necessary steps to fix it. This can include acknowledging that a mistake was made (i.e. misplaced paperwork) and apologizing for the oversight, or thanking patients for helping you to identify an area that needs improvement. Other patients will see that you take comments and criticism seriously, and they will feel a greater sense of satisfaction with your organization.

Does your healthcare organization use Facebook or Twitter for your medical marketing services? Let us know what you use your social media accounts for most.


Comments Leave a Comment

Steve Levine

Your “Fix It” advice is not the best advice for physicians and health care providers. Acknowledging on social media that someone is (or even might be) your patient creates a violation of the HIPAA privacy law. What might work in other realms of business (public apologies, thank yous) doesn’t work in medicine.

hospital marketing

It is true that the use of social media for hospital marketing is very effective, and you’re right when you said that it also has drawbacks. The ways you discussed how to handle these drawbacks are very simple yet very helpful. In social media misunderstandings, it is always smart to find out the root of the problem first and then, of course, to find the solution and learn to accept mistakes. Your articles are really valuable. Thanks for sharing.


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