The patient-physician relationship is one that is important to first develop and maintain in order to keep patients at your practice and acquire new ones through referrals. The digital world is becoming more and more important in building the trust that comes as a result of this relationship. Studies show that 60% of people trust doctors the most when reading information posted on social channels, such as physicians’ answers to questions or content that provides new information addressing medical concerns. There are also a few challenges, though, such as keeping the online relationship professional, monitoring patients’ reviews of your practice, and crafting appropriate language for your content.
How Social Media Can Build Relationships
Social media is a great and relatively inexpensive option to use as part of your medical practice. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter, two of the most popular, can help you develop trust with your patients in several ways. Adding photos of your facility, staff, and even patients will help develop trust in the current patients and show what you have to offer to new patients.
It is important to encourage current patients to share their positive experiences on your social channels, whether that be through a written post or an image. These posts will show prospective patients that people are happy with you and your practice, and will help generate leads for you.
Blogs and forums have become very popular in online healthcare marketing. People can post questions online and have them answered by either other people or by medical professionals. By responding to patients on these blogs, you will develop a credible reputation that can generate leads for your practice.
Answering Patients’ Questions
People often go to the web to ask questions or to search for new information. When patients specifically ask you questions online, do your best to personally answer them first. Do not just direct patients to articles without giving some sort of answers to their questions, as people often become frustrated when they are redirected to information rather than responded to directly. This will also show that you care about your patients and the relationship you share.
Do some research and make sure that you are answering these questions as accurately as possible, because if you don’t, you will lose credibility. Only direct them to additional readings after you have attempted to answer their questions as completely as possible. Finally, if you feel that there is a strong medical concern, inviting them to come in for a visit will relieve their stress about their concerns and make them feel welcome.
Finally, acknowledge that this response is not a substitute for serious medical emergencies. Those should be dealt with by a prompt visit to a physician or hospital.
Keeping the Patient-Physician Relationship Professional
Using the web as a means of answering questions about health concerns and providing novel information is the crux of how the Internet is changing the medical field. However, it is important to use it solely for this purpose and to understand the confidentiality laws that exist. Connecting to patients on a more personal level, such as individually messaging a patient on Facebook, should be avoided. Keep the conversation professional and to the point!
It is also important to distinguish what will be appropriate to post in terms of professional and personal content in order to build relationships. You must maintain the same level of interaction that occurs face-to-face between patient and physician when communicating online. Maintaining that distinction and keeping the very clear is important.
The Use of Language
The way in which you communicate with your patients online is another factor to consider when integrating the web as part of your practice. First, you must understand the demographic of your audience: age, race, socioeconomic status, and many more factors are important to consider when drafting your content. Regardless of these differences, you should not use complex medical jargon when describing your facility or your services, as it is more than likely you will not be communicating with other medical professionals.
Essentially, using language for the common person will give you a voice that people can learn to become comfortable with and feel confident seeking medical help from, whether that be online or in person at your practice. Communicating on the same level as your patients is key to developing a sense of trust. Further, by speaking compassionately when answering questions or providing new information, people will appreciate your care and will see you as trustworthy.
Monitoring Patient Reviews
The digital realm is a place where patients can talk about their experiences with your practice with both your current and potential new patients. Monitoring these reviews is crucial, and you should try to build trust by responding promptly and politely to as many reviews as possible whether these reviews are positive or negative.
Monitoring these reviews is crucial, and you should try to build trust by responding promptly and politely to as many reviews as possible whether these reviews are positive or negative.
It is critical, though, that you do not censor their comments: people hiding behind a computer screen can be very eager to explain what they disliked about their experiences, but letting them express these frustrations without being censored will develop their and other patients’ trust of you and your practice. Having some negative comments will show that you are allowing your patients to voice their opinions and experiences rather than trying to make your business seem perfect, as no practice is, and this honesty will show that you are reliable.
Still, do not be afraid to address any negative comments. Clearing up misunderstandings or offering to resolve the issue to the patient’s satisfaction shows that you will go out of your way to ensure a good experience. This can also be a valuable in showing prospective patients that you care not only about them but also about how your practice is perceived.