Reaping the benefits
In general, being on social media has helped Swedish improve its brand awareness and community engagement, says Lewis. "We also have examples of bringing patients to the door through live stream and blogging."
Timimi says that the recognition that can occur from a one-hour Twitter chat can create downstream referrals and recognition as well. But to secure physician involvement, you have to answer the question, "How is it going to help me?"
Lewis says you can show doctors examples of how another physician who has been blogging answered a question and now has a new patient paying for an out-of-pocket surgery. Or take a screenshot of their search results (from a neutral computer) before they start blogging and then after they blog so they can see how the search results improved.
In addition, repetitive clinical practices that have value to consumers can really be leveraged online, says Timimi. If you are a pediatrician, you probably talk with a lot of patients about picking a bike helmet for a toddler. It's a common conversation, he says.
But rather than spending eight minutes talking with each patient, you could create and direct patients to a YouTube video that summarizes the helmet selection process online. "It is not just you and that family in the exam room, it can now be accessed by anyone," Timimi explains.
Aside from patients, social media can also increase physician referrals, says Lewis. Just like patients who see a physician blogging online and decide to seek them out, physicians may choose to send patients to a specialist they see responding to patients and sharing information online through social media.
The great thing about social media is it has a short half-life, so organizations and physicians can try things and see what works, Lewis says. That short half-life also means, however, that if you do something great, it will go by really quickly unless you package your efforts.
"If you do a really great campaign or have really great videos, don't let them die a slow death on your YouTube channel. Bring them back out on a regular basis on a blog, Facebook page, or show them on the monitors at your hospital," says Lewis.
This article appears in the April 2012 issue of Healthcare Marketing Advisor.