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A Helpful Guide: How to Use Social Media in Healthcare



How to Use Social Media in Healthcare

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Many healthcare professionals use social media for fun, but it is also a popular business tool. One of the major benefits of social networking in healthcare is the easy dispersal of medical information and the ability to encourage healthy behaviors without a stethoscope in hand. Social media apps like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are low-cost public relations and marketing tools. They also provide an additional way for nurses and doctors to educate their patients about health conditions, communicate with vulnerable patient populations and share knowledge with a diverse range of age groups.

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Now that you know some of the advantages of using social media as a healthcare professional, you can apply it to your own apps and accounts. This guide will break down in detail how to use social networking responsibly and ethically. You will also discover how to promote your brand, company or private practice to reach your current patients and potential customers.

Educate Your Followers

Patients see their healthcare provider to feel better, but they also rely on physicians and nurses to educate them about common conditions and chronic illnesses. A registered nurse can use social media as an opportunity to teach followers about health concerns and emerging industry topics before they ever arrive at the office. These tactics can be more affordable than print marketing efforts, such as brochures or in-office posts, which take time to create and cost money to print. Unlike marketing materials at an assisted living facility or hospital, they also have the potential to reach your current patients, future clients and people across the globe.

To better educate your followers, consider the advice you give patients while you care for them. Break down this information into several short posts, keeping in mind a photo, video or infographic to go with it. Consider creating posts that list common symptoms, offer at-home care advice or let patients know when to see a doctor. You can also share statistics about a condition, post the latest treatment options in the field, explain what type of care providers are available to them.

Infographics, multi-graphic “slide” posts and animated GIFs are all popular ways to provide educational information to your followers. Video is the most popular form of social media content today, so consider investing a few moments to record a video featuring advice or tips. Keep recordings short in order to help viewers retain health information and make the most impact.

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Consider Patient Privacy

Social networking apps are governed by regulations, just like the real world. Every healthcare professional, regardless of their title or field of focus, must adhere to current HIPAA guidelines for social media. These rules protect patients from having their protected health information shared over social media and helps doctors and nurses understand what is acceptable to share online. The guide also explains how to know when you are sharing too much.

Review the most up-to-date guidelines before you post about healthcare topics. Next, check to see if your employer has a social media handbook. In some cases, the guidelines are more strict than federal regulations. Follow the rules of your clinic or workplace and inquire with your supervisor or human resources (HR) if you have questions.

If you are a consultant or own a private business and a patient is okay with sharing their name or photo on your social media pages, always obtain written consent. Ask the patient to sign and date a form that gives specific information about where their image will be posted, on what date and how long it will stay on the site. Even if a patient provides written acceptance, they may decide to revoke it. If this happens, take their photo down immediately or replace the image in the post with another graphic. When in doubt, do not use case information. Instead, make your discussion about techniques or conditions as broad and general as possible.

Interact with Your Community

As you begin posting valuable content, your followers will begin to interact with you. They may comment on an educational post, ask a question about symptoms or send you a direct message with questions about your services or practice. Establish a communications policy ahead of time so you are prepared with how you want to answer queries and comments. Consider how quickly you think you need to respond, if you will answer private messages and when it is time to direct your followers to your business, doctor’s office or clinic.

Some nurses like to add disclaimers to their profile pages or posts. You may wish to say that you do not provide specific medical advice to patients, only general tips and tricks. You can also remind your followers to call your practice or hospital if they have questions about treatment. One of the most important reminders you can give patients is to call 911 or go to the emergency room if they need quick care. Social media should never be a replacement for seeking emergency help.

If you receive negative comments, address them with a positive tone. Your patients and colleagues will look to you for leadership and example when you are challenged about a video or post. Know that pushback is a normal part of the social media landscape, but so is positive feedback. As you embark on your social networking journey in healthcare, you may be surprised at just how eager and appreciative that patients are to receive your expert advice.

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Be Professional Yet Authentic

Healthcare is an intimate and patient-focused field. In turn, social media is a space where users are craving a connection. Medical professionals are excellent candidates for successful social media growth campaigns. While you must remain professional online, you should also be yourself. Your patients and future clients want to get to know you.

Mix your educational content with engaging pictures and videos. Post photos of your team getting ready for a busy morning or share yourself proudly donning your men’s or women’s scrubs as you discuss why you love being a nurse. Reveal your challenges but cast them in a hopeful light. While your followers may look up to your example, they do not expect you to be superhuman—or perfect.

Partner with your fellow colleagues by sharing each other’s posts and commenting on their most engaging topics. Seek out other nursing professionals on your favorite apps. See why they are successful and how they are sharing their own authentic brand. Re-posting their best content can help you to build a professional online relationship. After all, social networking is about sharing with and caring for others. Just like face-to-face networking, promoting your fellow healthcare professionals will help you grow your own brand (and following).

Nursing in the Digital World

While nurses can still use their favorite sites to shop scrubs on sale or connect with friends, social media also offers an excellent opportunity for nurses to showcase their talents and help others on a broad scale. Keep in mind ethics and patient privacy laws as you navigate the space. Additional tips for being successful in the social media world include searching for relevant healthcare hashtags online, keeping profiles or posts set to private and creating separate personal and professional accounts on popular networking sites like Instagram and Facebook. The more you treat social media like another facet of your world, the more successful you will be in enjoying the benefits and preventing mishaps.

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