Healthcare in the Digital Era: Engaging Patients via Social Media

Social media’s utility in the healthcare sector is vast and diverse. It’s not just an avenue for attracting new patients, but also acts as a platform for brand enhancement and public education.

Yet, effectively tapping into its vast potential isn’t a walk in the park. The healthcare domain is bound by stringent regulations, catering to specific audiences and having particular goals in mind. Whereas most guidance on social media promotion largely caters to sectors with a more transparent route to ROI, healthcare professionals often find themselves treading uncharted waters.

But when healthcare institutions master the art of social media, it’s not just their brand that prospers – entire communities thrive. That’s why we’ve crafted this guide: to bolster such noble objectives and provide you with top-notch strategies and suggestions to expand your digital audience effectively.

What are the benefits of social media in healthcare?

As patient questions, concerns and recommendations continue to go digital, social media has become a crucial tool for healthcare providers. Here are five key ways organizations benefit from the channel.

Build your reputation within a community

Social platforms are pivotal for healthcare entities aiming to seamlessly connect with diverse demographic groups spanning multiple generations. Through social channels, healthcare establishments can indulge in forthright and transparent interactions with varied communities, be it local, situational, or interest-driven.

Such proactive outreach doubles up as a brand reinforcement strategy, cementing your establishment’s image as a trusted source for both health services and information. Hence, when individuals are on the lookout for medical care, your institution naturally becomes their primary consideration.

Discussing competition within the health sector can be a tad sensitive. Nonetheless, with every speciality brimming with numerous providers, it’s only common for potential patients to survey multiple options.

Considering this landscape, it’s imperative for healthcare marketers to position their establishments as frontrunners within their niche. Be it showcasing your team in action or championing local causes, social media paves the way for clinics and hospitals to present a more relatable and human face to those considering their services.

Raise awareness on public health topics

Most major and minor events come with various health risks to consider. Even something as common as the start of summer presents new dangers for vulnerable communities.

Providers are responsible for boosting timely, factual information for patients needing guidance. That includes:

  • Recommendations for those experiencing symptoms or side effects
  • Self-help and external resources to navigate a diagnosis
  • Links to new studies and treatment options

Healthcare and social media go hand-in-hand when it comes to raising awareness about public health topics. A standard health advisory can be repurposed into countless types of content, increasing the likelihood of it resonating with its target audience.

Mitigate panic during crises or emergencies

Just as a spark quickly ignites a tuft of cotton, the internet can rapidly flare up during a health crisis, leading to a whirlwind of misinformation and undue alarm.

It’s the solemn duty of healthcare providers to steer the public rightly during such tumultuous times. They stand as a beacon, disseminating verified updates that the masses can rely upon.

Inactive or thinly-populated social profiles can dent credibility, hampering your pivotal role in aiding the community. Hence, it becomes imperative for healthcare entities to maintain a robust social media footprint as an integral component of their crisis response blueprint. Well-grounded social handles serve as a trusted medium to circulate vital advisories, address communal apprehensions, and even orchestrate relief initiatives.

Attract top talent

As providers continue to grapple with staffing shortages, attracting talent has become one of most important applications of social media for healthcare organizations.

Social networks provide a platform to shape and strengthen your employer brand. Sharing updates on awards and behind-the-scenes content can get candidates excited about working with your organization, expanding your talent pool and expediting the hiring process.

Social media for healthcare marketing best practices

Given that the role of social media in healthcare primarily focuses on educating followers, you’re afforded the opportunity to focus on meaningful, compelling content first and foremost. Let’s look at some examples below.

  • Publish educational content to keep patients in the loop
  • Use inspirational content to motivate followers
  • Post infographics for increased engagement
  • Harness the power of health-related hashtags
  • Take your audience behind-the-scenes
  • Publish patient shout-outs to spread positivity
HIPAA compliance and social media

To wrap things up, we need to talk about HIPAA.

The most important best practice of social media in healthcare is ensuring patient confidentiality.

In short, you need to take special care when publishing patient content which would potentially reveal sensitive information or otherwise violate HIPAA (Though not fully applicable in India). For example, did you know that using your patients as part of your marketing materials requires explicit written consent?

There’s a lot that goes into HIPAA compliance on social media, but here are some of the basics:

  • You’re allowed to engage with clients via social, but doing so means being sensitive about health information shared via direct message.
  • Publishing patient stories or photos requires written consent.
  • Posting sensitive or identifying information publicly can land you in trouble.
  • With all of this in mind, we urge you to check out our HIPAA and social media cheat sheet for more information.
Social media keeps your organization in good health

Healthcare providers need to meet their communities where they are: on social media.

Thoughtful use of social media in healthcare can tackle some of the industry’s biggest challenges. It’s where leading organizations are connecting with communities, building their reputations and becoming local providers (and employers) of choice.

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