If you are a physician, dentist, veterinarian or other healthcare provider, you have likely arrived at the proverbial fork in the road between embracing social media or ignoring it, and accepting change or avoiding it. No matter which choice you make, there’s risk involved. The question is, how much risk are you willing to accept with your practice and your livelihood on the line?
Let’s start with the notion that change is central to our universe. So said the Greek philosopher Heraclitus. If you run a healthcare practice, you know that change is constant. The one change you may not have seen coming and may not be ready for, however, is the change in consumer (read: patient) behavior. Driven by the digital age and mobile technology, 80 percent of your potential new patients now go online to obtain health and provider information. It’s not a fad or a trend anymore. It’s a fact of life.
You Already Have a Digital Footprint
Whether you like it or not, you already have a reputation in the digital world. If you doubt this, go ahead and Google yourself. You may be surprised by what you find. You may already have an online reputation based on current or past patient reviews, even if you do not yet have an online presence – say a website or a blog.
As a healthcare provider, you are naturally risk-averse. So engaging in social media or online reputation management probably seems like risky business. No wonder so many healthcare professionals have been slow to embrace social media.
But consider this: Every medical or dental treatment you have ever given involved some degree of risk. Doing what’s best for your patients also involves the risk of doing them harm. Conversely, doing nothing for your patients involves the risk of losing them entirely.
It’s no different with social media. You are now at the fork in the road where you can ignore social media and possibly do your practice great harm, or you can embrace it and reap the benefits. The first option is the familiar route where you keep your head down and accept whatever comes – even if it’s a negative online patient review.
The second option is the road less traveled – where you actively engage in the online community and conversation and use electronic media to enhance the good you can do for your patients and your reputation. If you follow this path, you must accept the two most fundamental realities of online reputation management. First, you have ZERO control over what other people say about you. Second, you have 100% control over the brand, image and story you create.
Social Media and Online Reputation Management Offer Opportunities
With healthcare social media in its relative infancy, you can still make your own rules. Think about that. Wouldn’t you rather make the rules than follow them?
Your voice and your opinion, as a healthcare professional, still matter. With so much bad information and pseudo-science overwhelming people on the Internet, most patients still want to know what their doctor or dentist says. They want and need information they can trust – that only you can provide.
Social media can be therapeutic, too. It gives you a chance to reflect about the inherent goodness in your work. It gives you a chance to educate patients and connect with colleagues around the world. Social media can also make you a better doctor, dentist or veterinarian. Social media covers health-related stories in real time. Social media brings new information to your smartphone or tablet immediately. Staying current and informed has never been more important.
Social media also levels the playing field for patients and doctors. A solo practitioner can have the same influence as a hospital or a big managed-care company. All you have to do is tell a good story and you are perceived as a leader. And medicine is filled with untold stories about exciting new treatments and cures. Social media gives you a voice and the opportunity to influence consumers.
So the benefits of using social media easily outweigh the risks. And the benefits of engaging in online reputation management can easily outweigh the risks you take by ignoring it. It’s important that you understand how social media and online reputation management can work together synergistically to bring you the kind of patients you really want in your practice.
Professional Help Is Just a Phone Call Away
If you don’t have the time or inclination to create and use your own social media and online reputation management programs, seek professional help. As a healthcare marketing firm with over 35 years of experience providing successful layered marketing programs for physicians, dentists, veterinarians, physical therapists and other ancillary healthcare providers, Practice Builders offers customized social media and reputation management programs that will do the heavy lifting for you.
Talk to a healthcare marketing consultant at Practice Builders to discover how our social media and online reputation management programs can help you build and maintain your practice and achieve your marketing goals. Just call 800.679.1200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to speak with a marketing consultant.
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