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November 9, 2012 / achanguris

A Social Media Check Up

Earlier this week I visited my primary care physician for a routine check up. We chatted about my health stats, talked about stress management, all that good stuff, and then it was time for the once-over with the stethoscope, look-in-your-ears part.

Stay with me, I promise I won’t over-share.

During the chit-chat as he listened to my lungs, I divulged that I’m responsible for the social media presence for my hospital. We were done talking about my personal health (and that was fine, we had already covered what needed to be covered), and he switched gears to ask me about social media in the world of healthcare.

What do you post on Facebook? What do you tweet?

The grand question: what do I say? My mind immediately went back to the Mayo Clinic Healthcare Social Media Summit (held in Rochester, Minnesota last month) and its closing session from Dr. Natasha Burgert. Known as @DoctorNatasha on Twitter, this pediatrician is a one-woman social media powerhouse. She sees tools like Twitter, blogs and even video as ways to interact with her patients (and their parents) outside of their office visits. With Doctor Natasha in mind, I rattled a couple of pieces of her advice:

  • Practice the “rule of three”: if she hears the same question from patients or parents three times in a week or so, Doctor Natasha writes a blog post answering the question. That way the next time she hears it, she has the answer and a blog post to point to.
  • Engage with your captive audience: patients typically end up sitting in the exam room waiting for the doctor, so why not take advantage of that time and educate them? Doctor Natasha records short video clips, posts them online, and then posts QR codes on the back of her exam room doors. A quick scan of the code with a smart phone loads the video, and voila — she’s engaging with patients even before she enters the room.
  • Don’t leave patients who aren’t using social media out in the cold: if your patient isn’t going to look at your online article (she refers to them as articles because her patients seem put off by the world “blog”), meet them where they are. Email it to them, print a copy, whatever works best for them.

What’s the point? What will I get out of it?

Like most things in life, I think you get out what you put in. I told my doctor if he takes the time to follow respected sources of health care information (American Cancer Society, American Academy of Pediatrics, etc.), he’d get a good idea for what works when using each tool. I advised he should listen first, learn the tool and community, and then leap in.

Once you’re in, you can set yourself up as a subject matter expert, a trusted source of information (specifically health information). You gain at least some brand recognition. Most importantly, you begin to build relationships with patients (or prospective patients) beyond the walls of your office. Jane Smith, wife and mother of three, may not need you today, but if she’s engaging with you on Facebook — even infrequently — and you nurture that relationship well, she’ll come to you when she does need you.

What do you do if someone says something bad about you?

I think my eyes lit up when he asked this one. I’ve spoken at two conferences and a webinar on precisely this topic. He’s lucky I didn’t pull out my slides and go to town (yes, they’re on a flash drive in my purse).

The short answer is:

  • If they have a problem you can fix, fix it.
  • If you can’t fix it, find someone who can.
  • If no one can fix it, offer a blameless apology.
  • If they’re still upset, offer to take the conversation off-line.

Of course there’s a lot more to it than that… but he had patients to see. :)

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