Effective Social Media Management for Health Centers
Maintaining a good name in the digital era is becoming increasingly important as social media tools and platforms continue to expand the services they offer. As a health center, having a professional social media presence is becoming an influential channel in which to engage patient populations. These channels enable physicians and health groups to communicate and share information quickly while reaching millions of people. However, these same channels and other social media activities also create new challenges for the patient-physician relationship.
In the current health care environment, health centers often don’t have the time or resources to effectively manage their own social media presence. The HITEQ Center has gathered this brief list of tips and resources to help health centers get started with managing and maintaining a professional and engaging social media presence for their health center.
- Think Before You Post
Above all else, make sure that you are complying with all privacy and security requirements before you post to social media. It is better to be slow in responding, rather than unknowingly violating HIPAA regulations. Have 2-3 people review a post before submitting. When dealing with patient information, be cognizant of the standards of patient privacy and confidentiality just as you would in any other context. There are boundaries to the patient-physician relationship that must be maintained—online and off. Never post identifiable patient information online and monitor your own internet presence to ensure that personal and professional information are kept separate. Also, be wary of inadvertently committing an act that constitutes medical malpractice. The National Association of Community Health Center’s (NACHC) guide to social media and medical malpractice relates two main areas of concern when it comes to social media, technology, and medical malpractice: 1) Committing an act that constitutes potential malpractice; and 2) the impact of social media use on a potential or pending malpractice proceeding.
- Know Your Audience
Understanding your audience is key if you want to ensure patient and stakeholder engagement. The message you want to disseminate should resonate with your target audience. NACHC’s guide to Social Media for Health Centers relates that it is important to not stray too far from the types of topics that brought people to your site in the first place. Try to understand how a user might receive your message if you want it to stick. Doing so can help you engage with past, current, and potential patients through meaningful and relevant content. This can encourage discussions and build credibility.
Understanding your audience is also a great way to get to know your patients and stakeholders; it can help you learn about their experiences with the health center, identify their pain points, and uncover new ways to improve care.
- Engage Your Population
Respond to all messages, including both praise and criticism. As Dr. John Halamka writes, “We don’t make excuses. We try to take it offline as soon as we can. We send a direct message to the reviewer.”
Customer service shouldn’t stop when you go online. Developing an online relationship with patients and stakeholders is critical in upholding your health center’s values in customer service and relations. Enhancing online communication between the physician and patient is one way to maintain that relationship. This means responding to their comments and questions, especially if it’s a complaint, is a professional and timely manner. Immediately connect with the user to resolve the issue.
- Practice Quality
Having a social media presence comes with the responsibility to report violating content. The AMA writes that if you “see content posted by colleagues that appears unprofessional… bring that content to the attention of the individual, so that he or she can remove it and/or take other appropriate actions.”
Also, recognize that your own actions online and the content you post may negatively affect you or your health center’s reputation. Be aware of the consequences and how they can undermine your reputation and public trust.
|Intended Audience||health center staff, patient navigators, patient education staff, patient outreach staff|