healthcare providers have many tools at their disposal to help build their businesses. Social network sites can be a powerful tool in the hands of persons who know how to leverage it to its full potential. When social media is misunderstood or misapplied, it can turn into a time sink where many hours that could have been spent more productively in other ways to build your business. Since social media is easily misunderstood, it will help to clarify some of those areas.
One of the things that makes it confusing is that social media uses terms that people often assume they understand, like ‘networking’, yet in the realm of social media, it has very different meanings.
With 128 million people using the internet in the US, the way of reaching people and being relevant to their needs has changed. This means that the way of doing business has changed as well. The public now consults their phone for the best buys on products and services. They are also using their phones to purchase items. The changes in the way business is conducted also impacts healthcare.
Social Media offers many tools that you as a healthcare professional can use to build your business. With the use of social (interactive) media, the nature of business building has changed. Social network sites provide an interactive way of dealing with potential clients. In previous generations, the relationship between a healthcare provider and potential clients was limited to one way interactions dominated by the national exam for medical administative assistant certification. Today, the patients talk back to you using Facebook, email, twitter or some other service, asking questions and want you as a healthcare professional to be responsive. If you provide good service, they can tell others, if your service is lacking, your reputation suffers much faster when they use social media.
In previous generations, any kind of marketing consisted of ads telling about the services provided and contact information. If the healthcare professional had social skills, they may even engage in networking as a way to develop their business. In previous generations, networking consisted of joining local business promotion groups in the local community. A healthcare professional typically joined the Chamber of Commerce, local professional group of their specialization, a business group like the lions or rotary or if they are really adventurous, toastmasters.
With social media, the groups that an aspiring healthcare professional joins have changed. Sure, there are still some of the old groups used in previous generations, which can be used. Social media provides more options. There are physician only sites like Sermo.com, which are a social media site devoted to only physicians.
Potential patients also want to know about their healthcare providers. When patients are often limited as to who the patient can see, when the patients do have some choice, they often have questions and want to interact with the provider. Social media provides a way for them to “get to know” their healthcare provider. Providers that learn how to use social media in dealing with patients will be ahead of their competition. Those providers will also need to develop written “social media policies” in dealing with those patients. Healthcare providers using social media will need to be clear concerning the boundaries between themselves and clients, specifying what information they will share about themselves and their accessibility.
In using the new social media, the public is now going to Facebook or Google to find help before they go to the yellow pages. This means that healthcare providers who do not have a social media presence will be passed over. They will not even by considered by potential patients that are seeking out healthcare.
The Importance of Social Media
When millions of people are using social networks, those healthcare providers who choose not to be a part of it by exercising ‘social media abstinence’ are missing out on the changing way that people interact. Healthcare professionals who choose to avoid social sites altogether are crippling themselves. The public now use them extensively. Whether in the use of their computers or phones, or both, it is a reality. Social media has changed the way people interact in the marketplace.
Dr. Ross Speck, who researched social networks back in the 1970’s saw the changes coming. He stated, “If the psychotherapist is to maintain a healing relationship with human beings in this predicament [social change]-if he is to be of value in relieving distress-he has to innovate”. Although Dr. Speck’s comments were directed at psychotherapists, it has application to any healthcare professional in practice today. It is becoming important for healthcare providers to know how to use social media, or hire someone for them who does.
Dr. Ken Cohn MD, has observed the importance of the new media and medical practice. He often addresses this subject. He sees the time for healthcare providers to act on social media is now, “…because physician leaders over the next 2 years will influence patterns of care delivery for the next 25 years”.
Social media is also a way for an aspiring Medical Administrative assistant certifying exam study guide to compete with much larger competition, whether it be from other people in healthcare, publishing or speaking. Using social media removes the size advantage that some exploit in providing healthcare