Guest Post by Blake Pappas, Freelance Writer

When was the last time you got a tweet from your doctor? Does your specialist have a Facebook page? Can you find out what is going on at your physician's practice from her blog? The answer to these questions is probably “no.” The healthcare industry has been lagging behind in their marketing efforts. This is unfortunate because many potential patients are looking for health information online. Institutions and practices that can provide valuable online content about health issues will have an advantage for attracting and retaining patients. 

The healthcare industry has struggled with this for a wide variety of reasons. First, there are many concerns about privacy. The personal nature of social media and blogs makes healthcare professionals reluctant to share information on these platforms. They do not want to compromise privacy. Second, healthcare professionals are not used to relating in a peer-to-peer setting with their clients. Doctors are often protected by a wide array of gatekeepers and are used to relating as authority figures. The open connectivity of social media is not the way that healthcare professionals are accustomed to relating to patients, even if they have recently completed a health care degree. Finally, staffing shortages and increased demand for services make it difficult to devote the necessary time to this form of marketing. 

Despite the challenges, healthcare professionals should look more seriously at their marketing process. This includes content and social media marketing. More or less, this would mean that healthcare institutions and practices would have to maintain active blogs and social media accounts in order to engage with potential and current patients. They would have to create valuable content, answer questions, reply to complaints and be proactive in creating an online brand. There are many ways that healthcare institutions might do this. Here are just a few that can be effective. 

One option is for doc tors to create introductory videos for their websites. These videos will allow a potential patient to get a sense of who that doctor is before the first appointment. If they also contain information about what patients will experience at their first office visit and what information they will need to bring, videos like these can also create positive experiences at the office that will help with patient retention. 

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Blogs need to share accurate and timely information. There is often a lot of misinformation on the internet. If a physician's office can provide accurate information, patients will pay attention. For example, if the doctor can provide information about the flu season and when flu shots are available, people will start to follow the doctor on their social media accounts. They will then be able to receive other information from the doctor and they may even share this information with their friends. By sharing timely and accurate information, the practice can attract new patients and help their regular patients stay connected. 

Another strategy is to use blogs and social media to attract the attention of more traditional mainstream media. Journalists are always looking for human interest stories. If the practice has a real success story that is posted on their blog (with permission of the patient), they can inform the mainstream media about this. If journalists pick up the story, it is free public relations for the practice. 

There are many other ways that healthcare professionals can benefit from the use of new online marketing methods. Effectively using these techniques can provide valuable information for patients as well as attracting and retaining patients for the practice. It is import for the healthcare industry to start adopting these methods so they can analyze and track their progress more efficiently.

About the Author: Blake completed his undergraduate degree in Justice Studies from Arizona State University. Blake has also recently worked in higher education and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Business.