Editor’s note: Ancil Lea, author of this guest commentary, has worked with more than 1,500 physicians, clinics, out-patient surgery centers, and hospitals to help with everything from medical software to healthcare marketing for nearly 30 years. He is the former coordinator for the Arkansas Office of Health Information Technology.
Several years ago, I spoke with a social media consultant about a meeting he’d had with a large Arkansas-based company that was considering whether or not to use social media. They had invited him to talk with their marketing executives and other team members who all wanted to know what the big deal was and whether it was worth their time and effort.
On a big screen in front of this large group of folks, the consultant shrewdly did a “twitter search” of the company’s name, and to the shock of his audience, several lines of search popped up saying “x company sucks.” Pages and pages. They had no idea! Empowered with this new information, they set about to put together a customer service strategy through social media and became very successful and adept at it.
I realize that many healthcare providers are in the throes of dealing with the new ICD-10 coding system that went into effect Oct. 1, but once the dust settles on that implementation, providers should once again turn their attention to patient attraction and retention. As the story above shows, social media is one of the ways to do this.
Who are you online? If you don’t know, you need to discover what that looks like and what folks are saying about your practice, surgery center, or hospital. I promise you that people are talking.
How are you engaging with them? Don’t think that they’re going to post anything in your portal — even if they’re using it. You have to be proactive about attracting and engaging patients these days by developing a strategy for using social media in addition to your portal. (Not having such a strategy is a strategy — a bad strategy, but a strategy all the same.)
Start by doing some simple things, like updating your social media at least once a week. You can also use your smartphone or iPad to put a video on your website from one of your physicians discussing things of interest to your patients like flu shots, specialty procedures, etc. Go crazy and try doing some Facebook ads or other digital marketing to get folks from your area to engage with you on social media. You don’t have to spend a lot to get results and interaction.
Last month I had to go to my ENT physician. As I sat in the waiting room, I did a quick survey. There were 12 of us in the room, and each person was on a smartphone. The ages ranged from to early 20s to early 80s, and you can bet at least a few of them were on social media — maybe even posting something about their visit to the doctor.
More than likely your patients are already talking about you. Be a part of that conversation.