You don’t have to have an advanced degree in computer science to know that online communities have empowered consumers to an unprecedented degree. But did you realize they also offer similar benefits to doctors?
It’s true. While some doctors still view social media warily and worry about the loss of control, others in the industry are embracing it, not because they think they have no choice but because they recognize it as an invaluable tool for business intelligence.
That’s among the intriguing findings of a new report from PwC’s Health Research Institute called “Social media ‘likes’ healthcare”. While much of the subject matter deals with how consumers are using social media to explore their healthcare options, the report’s subhead — “From marketing to social business” — acknowledges that savvy providers can use it to expand their role with customers and foster new relationships.
Health organizations have an opportunity to use social media as a way to better listen, participate in discussions and engage with consumers in ways that extend their interaction beyond a clinical encounter, says Kelly Barnes, US Health Industries leader, PwC. Savvy adopters are viewing social media as a business strategy, not just a marketing tool.
Ultimately, social media is far more than just a marketing channel, it’s a mindset that can inform — and enhance — every aspect of your practice. Among the benefits:
- Data from interactions in social media can provide a more complete patient profile. For example, an aesthetic consumer who shares the results of previous procedures offers a wealth of information on his or her expectations regarding subsequent procedures.
- Insights from social media offer instant feedback on consumers’ impressions of products and procedures, enabling doctors to keep up with new trends and changing tastes.
- Social media can help doctors monitor the competition. On RealSelf.com, patients post detailed reviews, including procedure prices, before and after photos and impressions of the service they received, information doctors can use to benchmark their own operations.
In fact, when you think of it in those terms, social media can do as much for doctors as it does consumers. And as more doctors embrace it, it will further prove its value as a tool of business intelligence.
Who knows, if the Health Research Institute publishes a follow-up report, they may have to call it Healthcare ‘likes’ social media.
1. Evaluate your social media presence
Doctors should research themselves in relevant online communities to see what consumers will discover about them as they do their research. They should then take measures to fill in the gaps or correct misinformation where their social media presence is lacking or likely to cause confusion.
2. Encourage happy patients to share their feedback online
According to the PwC report, one in three consumers seek out patient reviews online. For them, doctors who don’t appear in such searches essentially don’t exist. The vast majority of cosmetic surgery patients are excited about their new look, so encourage them to post reviews that other potential patients can find.
3. Share your expertise
Of the 1,060 consumers who participated in the PwC study, 41% said social media would affect their choice of a provider. Doctors need to be sure that their expertise is researchable in the social media communities that their consumers are using. Q&A forums on sites like RealSelf are one example of a place for aesthetic doctors to boost their online presence.