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Practical Ways to Use Social Media for Healthcare

by | Mar 18, 2020

Social media is important for healthcare brands. Nearly every healthcare provider and practice today uses social media to communicate with their community. That’s a good thing for patients and communities. 

However, not all healthcare brands post the most effective content. As a healthcare institution, there are opportunities to use social media to help patients, help communities, and grow your healthcare organization. Is your content doing that for you, or are you simply treading water?

Here are 3 practical ways to use social media for healthcare organizations.

Fighting Back Against Online Rumors Prevents Crises

One of the most beneficial ways healthcare providers can use social media is to educate their communities. Becoming a reliable and trustworthy source for community health information is invaluable to local patients and to the future stability of the healthcare providers themselves. 

COVID-19, more commonly called the Coronavirus, is a severe acute respiratory syndrome with a long incubation period. The virus can spread before an infected person ever feels symptoms. The disease is particularly dangerous to the elderly and people with preexisting conditions.

While the CDC has released information on how the disease spreads, symptoms, prevention, and treatment, rumors fear-mongering about the disease and those saying it’s no different than the seasonal flu have run rampant on social media.

In fact, addressing social media rumors, France recently had to tell its citizens that cocaine wasn’t an effective cure for Coronavirus. Twitter had to suspend the account of the financial website Zero Hedge after they published an article questioning if a scientist played a role in purposefully releasing the virus. Others falsely claimed drinking bleach would cure the disease (it won’t). Worse yet, a small Ukranian town was turned upside down amidst violent riots resulting from an explosive mix of government inaction, public panic on social media, and a concerted fake-news campaign executed by unidentified actors. In total, nine police officers were injured and 24 rioters were arrested. Because of rumors on social media.

To combat rumors, healthcare providers should always listen to the CDC during a crisis, stay up-to-date on the latest medical and technological developments, communicate regularly and honestly on social media, and never amplify rumors that put more people at risk.

Healthcare providers should have crisis plans in place before they need them. Read more on developing crisis plans on the Nichols PR blog.

Providing Social Support for Patients Improves Recovery

The popularity of Facebook groups has exploded in the last few years. From 2017 to 2018, Facebook Group membership increased 40%, with 1.4 billion people—more than half of all Facebook users—now interacting with at least one private group every month. Surprisingly, these groups can offer legitimate benefits to patient health.

Studies have long suggested social support after surgery can drastically increase survival rates for patients. An early study in the Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine showed how a lack of social participation increases an elderly patient’s risk of death within six-months after having cardiac surgery.

There was also a landmark study that showed a lack of social connections is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking, or high blood pressure.

Social connectedness is vitally important to health outcomes. Luckily, understanding the link between social connectedness and recovery rates provides an opportunity for marketers to use social media to actually benefit patients’ health outcomes. 

To see how social media affected social connectedness, researchers created a Facebook group for 350 liver transplant patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers. Astonishingly, 95% of survey respondents said that joining the group positively affected their care. Additionally, the study suggests Facebook support groups increase patient engagement and satisfaction.

For people living with certain conditions, program participation can be a matter of life or death. Research has long proven that participation in metastatic breast cancer social support groups lead to an increased survival rate.

According to Mayo Clinic:

A person’s relationship with a doctor or other medical personnel may not provide adequate emotional support, and a person’s family and friends may not understand the impact of a disease or treatment. A support group among people with shared experiences may function as a bridge between medical and emotional needs.

These support groups provide increased motivation for patients to stick with treatment plans and allow patients to get practical feedback about their treatment options—both of which contribute to more positive outcomes for patients. Additionally, medical professionals, too, can be a part of private groups, championing patient causes, providing medical insights, and serving as ambassadors to the community.

Finding the Patients Who Need You Most

For marketers, social media’s greatest strength is its advertising platform. Especially since every generation actively uses social media to make healthcare decisions. If your medical practice needs more patients, Facebook could be a great way to find them.

Ads allow hospitals and health service providers to target specific groups of people who are most likely to benefit from their services. While many private practices will only offer a single specialty, larger institutions usually have numerous service lines. Service line marketing is the practice of treating each service line (e.g. Orthopedics, Pediatrics, ENT, etc) as separate campaigns with their own budgets, goals, and strategies. Through Facebook advertising, creating different audiences to target for individual service lines is fast and easy. That means healthcare providers can target young parents during the flu-shot season, or advertise orthopedic services specifically to athletes or elderly patients. 

Best yet, the more you use the platform, the more you’ll learn and adjust to make your spending more efficient. It’s not crazy expensive either. The average cost-per-click for healthcare advertising on Facebook is only $1.32.

Use Social Media More Effectively

Social media isn’t a passive activity for brands. When done correctly, healthcare brands should be actively educating followers, supporting patients, and expanding their footprint so they can serve more people more effectively. By engaging in these practical uses of social media, healthcare providers give themselves the best chance to survive and thrive in a competitive landscape.

If your brand wants to learn more about how social media can benefit you, reach out to me anytime at mklein@nichols-co.com to get a conversation started.

Matt Klein - VP Account Services
Matt Klein believes that the business of healthcare is personal — because healthcare is personal. It’s a subject he’s very passionate about. Throughout his career, he’s worked with a wide variety of clients across the spectrum of healthcare, including large national companies such as Advocate Health Care and Pfizer, regional powerhouses including St. Vincent’s Health System and IU Health, and smaller, specialized facilities such as Advocate Eureka, Orthopedic Sports Enhancement Center, and Fort Wayne Medical Oncology and Hematology.

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