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Social Media Tips for Physicians & Dentists

Social Media Tips for Physicians & Dentists

As social media and specifically Facebook becomes more important for users all over the world, businesses, specifically medical practices in US and Canada, need to do more on Facebook. How do you stand out from thousands of other businesses who are advertising and working to get the attention and “Likes” of targeted users?

For better or worse, social media is a large part of many people’s lives. The usage and adoption of Social Media is no longer contained to a younger demographic. More people in different and older demographics are all using social media, and this number is growing every year. Hundreds of millions of people use social media at any one time, and you can connect with almost anyone around the world today. Social media has impacted many industries, most notably retail and travel. However, the healthcare industry has not seen much in the way of use or adoption over the years, although some doctors are taking advantage of it. Those who do implement a social media strategy stand to gain an edge over their competitors.

Social Media Tips for Physicians
Social Media Tips for Physicians

Below are some significant reasons why medical clinics should have a social media component of their overall medical marketing strategy. It is just another pillar in what will support the marketing that will help grow your patient count and business. Chances are there are doctors in the area already using social media correctly in their medical marketing plan. After reading below, look at your top competitors’ social media channels and compare them to yours to see if there is anything you could be doing better at your business. 

Medical Practices Should Review with Their employees (Both Doctors and Staff) the use of the Internet and Social Media 

Do medical practices benefit from having staff use social media and the internet?  

In today’s digital world, almost all patients and medical practice encounters will have a connection to the internet and social media. Patients may find it strange to come across a medical practice that shuns the digital age and has voluntarily exiled themselves from the internet and social media. At the absolute least, a medical practice must have a website so patients can find them online. It would also be impossible to ban all employees from the internet and social media. Today’s digital healthcare technology demands that hired staff are literate in using technology as a whole, so hiring quality employees would only be impossible if they shunned technology completely.

Medical practices will put themselves at a disadvantage if they do not embrace today’s technology. Medical records are no longer kept in locked filing cabinets but in encrypted, HIPAA-compliant electronic medical record software. Social media allows current and potential patients to connect with their medical practices and doctors. A medical practice with robust technology integration to support their healthcare will find their practices delivering better healthcare outcomes and increased patient satisfaction. With HIPAA regulations considered, the internet and social media also give patients better access to healthcare information and engagement with their care team. When a medical practice publishes healthcare information online and through social media, it presents numerous opportunities for patient education. It helps market them as a trusted place to receive excellent care and accurate information. It allows them to demonstrate their medical knowledge and authority, increasing patient trust and making them look much more important in online search results. A patient and a search engine will trust the expertise of a medical practice that publishes numerous things online and on social media versus a medical practice that may have equal medical talent but only a scrap of online information about it. 

What are some common social media channels medical practices will likely use?  

Facebook – Many medical practices will have Facebook Business pages to connect with patients and promote using Facebook’s powerful ad platform. Text, videos, and picture posts are often used to promote the medical practice and share information. Patients can also message a practice through Facebook Messenger.

Instagram – Although owned by Facebook, this social media channel is much more of a visual medium than Facebook. Any post must have a video or a picture, and links can only be shared in bios. This social media channel is most effective for medical practices with many aesthetic services, like a medical spa.

TikTok- Although limited in the number of characters one can post, Twitter is a great way to connect with people and engage in online discussions. Potential patients can also communicate with practices using “direct messages.”

Google Business Profile – Medical practices can post updates to their Google Business Profile. This allows current and potential patients to get updates directly from Google Search results before exploring further.  

Why must healthcare employees have internet and social media policies that are up to date?  

Although there are clear benefits to the internet and social media, they can not be unregulated. Policies must be in place, so these tools are used responsibly. These policies help protect the business from a negative reputation and any possible violations of HIPAA. Regardless of the size of a medical practice or healthcare organization, policies must be spelled out and adopted, and staff must be trained to follow them. The policy should be clear to outline what the best practices are, permitted uses, and what the consequences are if employees violate the policy. When hired, a copy of the policy must be given to each employee, and they need to acknowledge that they have received and read it. An organized and concerted effort to manage social media and employee internet use is in the best interest of the medical practice and the employees.

What should internet and social media policies implement by a medical practice outline to their employees?

Some areas a social media and internet policy should outline include:

  • Employer expectations – It is important to tell employees what is expected of them when using the internet and social media. For example, if certain websites are banned from being accessed during work hours or on work computers, those sites or those categories of sites should be spelled out. As another example, if employees are not allowed to use their phones to access social media during work hours, that again should be stated. Some medical practices will also expect their employees, if they do have access to social media and the internet, not to say anything that could damage their reputation.
  • Remind employees their public social media and internet posts are just that: Public –  Not all employees may realize that everyone can see what they post online. When laying out social media policies, remind employees that everyone, including their employer, can see their public social media posts. 
  • Remind employees of the legal risks of publishing online content –  A medical practice should not use any part of their internet and social media use policy to threaten employees with lawsuits if they do not comply. Using draconian language and threats is not a good look for a healthcare business, and it will be challenging to attract quality employees. However, there are a variety of federal and state regulations to protect patient’s personal health information. While these rules have long been established, new policies and nuances can develop. Employees may need to be fully aware or trained to be HIPAA compliant. Without this training, a medical practice is at risk of a bad business reputation and possible violation of patient privacy laws. It is in everyone’s best interest to remind employees of these rules.  

Should medical practices be constantly monitoring employees’ online behavior?

While it may make the owner of a medical practice feel more “protected” if they are constantly monitoring the online behavior of their employees, this is not recommended. Besides the fact it will likely turn off current and prospective employees, a medical practice would have to hire someone whose only job is to read and monitor other people’s websites and social media accounts. It will not be as effective or create a better working environment for employees.

That said, it is helpful for a medical practice to audit employees’ social media and internet use occasionally. A medical practice looking at what their employees publish can help them ensure they are following established policies. An employer can highlight potential problems early, talk with an employee, and avoid negative publicity and legal issues. For example, an employee may have had a rough day at work and posted on social media that the day was challenging. Something like that would be fine. However, if they instead specifically describe a patient, make fun of them, share personal health information, and call them names, then that would likely be something an employer would have to speak to them about. An employer should see something and speak to an employee about it rather than a patient bringing it up or filing a complaint. Respectfully auditing employee social media and internet use benefits and protects the entire medical practice.  

What should internet and social media policies at a medical practice cover?  

While every medical practice will have its rules, some general policies often appear in these documents. Some of the most common ones are listed below.

  • All staff and patients should be communicated through a designated, HIPAA-compliant messaging system. Talking to patients about personal health information through social media channels or personal email addresses can not be allowed.
  • Communication should be ethical and professional. Staff needs to protect the patient-doctor relationship and the patient’s privacy.  
  • A policy should also remind employees not to disclose private or protected information about the medical practice and its business.  
  • The policy should also tell employees not to engage in any discrimination or harassment using social media, even outside of the workplace. A medical practice will want a policy in place that if an employee is saying and posting inappropriate things after work, they can be held responsible for it.  
  • Employees and staff should be reminded that their social media activities can be monitored occasionally. 

Do employees at a medical practice have a first amendment right to free speech?  

The first amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America prevents the government from making laws preventing people from expressing themselves. This is a general information document, not a legal document; medical practice is generally a private business and, therefore, not the government. As such, they can, in many cases, restrict their employee’s speech or terminate their employment if they violate a policy, such as engaging in discrimination or harassment. Another example would be complaining about another patient and posting private health information. In most cases, employers can also terminate the employment of any employee based on their political affiliations. All in all, a medical practice has a lot of flexibility to monitor and restrict employees’ speech to ensure they maintain a good business reputation. 

That said, certain states have laws that protect employees and give them more rights than others. For example, unlike in other states, employment can not be terminated in California based on one’s political beliefs. Some forms of speech are protected. For instance, while an employer could fire a staff member for posting support for a political position, they could not fire someone if that employee was trying to create a union. If a medical practice wants to restrict what employees can and can not say beyond typical harassment and discrimination, it would be wise for them to consult with an attorney familiar with federal, state, and local ordinances.  

What elements should an internet and social media use policy include?  

Again, while every medical practice will be different, a few must-have elements of these policies will make them effective.  

  • Purpose – As with any policy, a clearly stated purpose should be towards the top of the policy. It will state the goals of the employer and the reasons why the policy was developed. This will get everyone on the same page so the policy can be implemented.
  • Expectations – After stating the purpose of a policy, an employer should lay out specific expectations for behavior. It can be helpful to lay out examples of what does and does not violate a use policy. For example, a medical practice could state examples of HIPAA violations or give examples of what would be considered unprofessional or unethical behavior.  
  • Conflicts of Interest – A medical practice should tell employees not to endorse any specific products or services and inform a medical practice if there are any financial relationships with third parties. It will harm the reputation of a medical practice if it appears a 3rd party is paying employees to promote something without disclosing that relationship and information.  
  • Training – Any good internet and use policy requires employees to be trained and educated about it. Training is not a “once and done” sort of thing, but it must be reviewed every so often. Frequently, this is on an annual basis. A medical practice should stress that the policy can be updated occasionally at the medical practice’s discretion.
  • Consequences – A medical practice needs to outline what the results of violations of these policies will incur. These consequences can include disciplinary action, termination of employment, or possible legal issues.  

Why is putting time and effort into social media and internet use policies beneficial?  

A medical practice benefits from having a more efficient workplace by establishing guidelines for their staff to use social media and the internet. The healthcare industry can significantly benefit from embracing this technology and using it to be more effective in treating patients. While it does take some work, the risks to a medical practice’s online reputation and legal exposure can be mitigated with proper training. Much like the healthcare industry as a whole, the legal and ethical landscape associated with social media and the internet as a whole is constantly evolving. As a medical practice would review their protocols when treating patients, they should also review their social media and internet use policies. New social media and internet technologies are being developed constantly. In as little as 12 months, a new social media channel or internet technology could need to be addressed. Updating policies to keep up with an evolving world is to the benefit of a medical practice.  

Using Social Media To Update Patients About Your Availability 

You should already have your regular hours of operations posted on your website and in your business listings. These hours should also be displayed in your social media profiles in the “Bio” or “About” section. With that said, unexpected things can happen that can affect the hours in which you are open. It may cause you to open late, close early, or not open for that day. Some of the most common causes for a medical practice to quickly change its hours include:

• Inclement weather
• Power outages
• Staff shortages
• Unexpected road construction
• Police or fire department activity
• Local declarations of emergency forcing all businesses to close
• Equipment Failure

These changes sometimes come very quickly. It may not be possible to update your website or your business listings in a timely manner. Social media allows you to communicate hour updates speedily and connect with as many people as possible while you update your listings or website. As long as it is safe to do so, many medical practices will post a picture along with these updates. For example, if your clinic loses power, a picture of staff using flashlights to finish paperwork will show your dedication. If a water main broke outside and the street’s department is tearing up the road, a picture will certainly have patients understand why they can not be seen today. Social media can also be a great way to inform people of providers’ availability and specific services. At some medical clinics, individual doctors and services are only available somedays of the week. These schedules are generally posted on websites, but much like regular business hours, exceptions can occur. If a provider or a service has a different schedule for a week, social media is usually the best place to post it. Occasionally, a service may have an extra upcoming day of availability. To advertise this, make a post on social media!

Patient Education

You may not realize it, but you can get a lot of good information from social media. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation on social media as well. Just about anyone can photoshop a fancy graphic to prove a ridiculous point. As a healthcare provider, you can help educate your current and potential patients about a variety of healthcare issues. Connecting with people online and giving them information is a great way to convert visitors into long-term patients. There are a few methods you can employ to use social media to educate patients.

Q & A Sessions

Is there a list of common questions you receive? Create a Q & A graphic and share it across your social media channel. Monitor the post for any follow-up questions and go into detail if requested. Why a graphic and not a text post? On Facebook, a graphic often gets better reach, and on Instagram, you have to have a picture with your post. On Twitter, you are limited by the number of characters you can post. A graphic allows you to post more on twitter. Also, graphics are much easier to share on other people’s profiles, making it reach even further.

If a doctor feels comfortable, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, all have a live broadcasting feature. A doctor could schedule a Livestream and connect with people who may have questions for them. If a doctor isn’t familiar with these social media features, they may need help setting it up and managing the chat to answer questions. However, this video can lead to high engagement with people and make a personal connection with your medical clinic. If your page is new with only a few followers, don’t expect a lot of engagement in the first few times you go live. Ask your employees to share a link of the live feed on their profiles. It is best to come with a prepared list of questions so your doctor can answer some questions live.

Share Health Articles From Reliable Sources

There is a lot of bogus health information out there on many questionable websites. Your social media channels can help fight this misinformation by sharing real health stories. Your patients, who may be battling with friends and family members over a health concern, will undoubtedly appreciate any articles you may share. Be careful not to contribute to the wrong information on social media by sharing articles that are not true. If you come across an article from a new news source, review a few more articles to make sure they are accurate in the information they are conveying.

Provide Anonymity To Those Seeking Out Treatment For The First Time

Some health issues are deeply personal, and people may be a little hesitant to seek out information about treatment formally. Social media allows people to get information about treatments, diagnoses, and other medical information without revealing their identity. Through social media, they can begin to engage with medical practices to ask questions and learn more. Social media is also connected to our smartphones with apps; it is easier than ever to reach out and engage with someone to get more information.

Doctors can take advantage of this by engaging with everyone who contacts them through social media. You can only give so much medical advice without having to seeing someone in person, but avoid asking everyone to make an appointment and be seen. Your first thought should not be, “how can I get an appointment out of this person right now?” Engagement and some sharing of information will make this person comfortable with you and eventually lead them to make an appointment. It is impractical to monitor social media channels 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You are not an international conglomerate. It may even be challenging to keep tabs on it throughout the working day. However, you should check several times a day to see if anyone has left a message or engaged with one of your posts.

Take advantage of smartphone apps; many social media channels make them available for practically every phone. You or a staff member can download the app and be alerted if something occurs on your profile. Depending on how busy you are, you may not be able to respond to it immediately, but it is better than waiting for 24 hours before you realize someone said something.

Promoting New Health Information or Share Breaking Health News

When there is a new health concern in a community, many people will first learn about it on social media from friends and family. You can use this as an opportunity to get the correct information to people before they start endangering their health by reading the wrong information. Even if they go to a reliable source, they may not understand it and misinterpret it. As a trusted source, you can explain things to your patients in a language they will understand.

There also may be times when you need to bring a health concern to the attention of your patient base. The most recent example of this would be warning your patients about the danger of COVID-19. While global pandemics will (hopefully) not be a yearly occurrence, there will be other emerging health concerns your community will need to know about. Besides the annual flu and allergy outbreaks, some areas see random outbreaks of dangerous diseases like measles or meningitis. Address these concerns with thoughtful social media posts along with some trusted resources.

Assign Someone To Manage Social Media To Improve Service

As a business owner of a healthcare facility or a doctor, you probably do not have time to check, post, or respond to things on social media. There are dozens of other things that need your attention, and social media is a time-consuming aspect of marketing. With that in mind, do yourself a favor and assign a trusted staff member to manage your social media properties. It should be someone who is tech-savvy and understands the brand of your medical clinic. In many respects, they will be the “face” of your medical clinic, so you want to make sure they completely understand the “voice” of your business. Does that mean it should be handed entirely off when it comes to social media? Absolutely not. You should check in from time to time with your assigned person to see how posts are performing or to review some topic you would like to be pushed online. If you do not assign someone to handle your social media properties, you might end up with sparse activity on your profiles. How many social media pages of businesses have you gone to, seen the last updated four months ago, and wondering if they were still in business.

To make your social media person’s job easier, use services that allow you to post and monitor multiple social media channels at once. It is very time-consuming to write a post, post it, log off, and repeat it for 2 or more social media profiles. A service that allows your designated social media person to connect multiple services and post simultaneously is a huge time saver.

Social Media Channels A Medical Practice Should Consider

There are many social media communities out there, and by this time next year, there will be some new ones, and some will have shut down. While it may be fun to explore some smaller networks, it is best to concentrate and start with the big ones. First, you are much more likely to connect with your target audience. Second, these networks generally have connections with the services that allow you to post all profiles at once.

Definitely Need Profiles On These Social Media Channels

• Google Business
• Facebook
• TikTok
• Instagram

Should Consider Having Profiles On These Social Media Channels

• Foursquare
• Snapchat
• TikTok
• Linked In

The list above should not be considered an exhausting list of “must-haves,” as the social media environment changes every year. A few years ago, Tik Tok wasn’t something that was widely adopted. A few years from now, there could be a half dozen other networks on there that are valuable to medical clinics.

Social media is growing every day, and more doctors are embracing this powerful marketing tool. You should not be the last one to this party! If you have not made your social media profiles yet, make them. If you have social media profiles but have barely used them, now is the time to start social media marketing plan for posts. can help you optimize your Facebook Business profiles to make sure everything is correctly filled out. We also offer the ability to post to some social media channels directly from our dashboard. Call our experts today and let us show you all of the social media apps we can install on your profile and available to you through the Gold service. We’ve helped many other health care professionals around the country with their social media marketing. We can most definitely help you! Call us today, and let’s schedule a demo