Social media: the tool physicians aren’t using to create their own competitive advantage

September 27, 2016 - 5 minutes read
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Social media has transformed the medium in which today’s society connects, shares, and creates community. Governments, companies, institutions, public figures, and everyday Joes all use it to create a unique brand, spread influence, and interact with the world. They’ve been able to create a bond with their constituents, customers, fans, and friends that allows them to develop long lasting and loyal relationships.

Industry Need

With regulations requiring doctors to use Electronic Health Record systems, face-to-face time with patients is growing increasingly more limited. As a result, patients are growing more dissatisfied with their physicians’ levels of service and care and are frequently choosing to find physicians who can meet their needs. They are seeking providers with whom they are able to establish a personal rapport, and they feel is invested in their health and best interests. More than ever before, the quality of the physician-patient relationship is a critical factor in gaining a competitive advantage in the medical industry.

According to a study conducted by Medical Economics, 80% of the patients who said they were very or extremely satisfied with the level of care they received cited their satisfaction by saying their physicians offered personalized care, spent time with them and were empathetic towards them. Moreover, patients most often based their satisfaction on their physician’s customer service, followed by communication, treatment and diagnosis, and scheduling, with intelligence listed as one of the least common reasons for satisfaction.

Yet, social media is still largely under-utilized and improperly utilized. Most medical facilities use it to spread influence with new medical discoveries, share new events, share organizational changes, and tell the occasional human interest story. Medical facilities, medical departments, and physicians are still not digging into the critical factors patients use to choose physicians in their use of social media.

How to create relevant social media posts

Keep in mind, confidentiality is just as critical as bedside manner when building trust with patients. Not to mention, avoiding legal troubles around patient confidentiality is critical for staying in business. For specialties dealing with more sensitive topics, it’s important to employ common sense and good judgement when selecting content to post. In all cases, advance permission by way of a signed waver should be obtained before conducting any filming or photography.

While being mindful of this, physicians can focus their posts on these areas to connect with their audience:

  1. Bedside manner

Videos can reflect physician’s cadence with patients. After watching, patients should have some sense of the physician’s professional conduct and their level of empathy. (Again, it’s important to be mindful of patient confidentiality.)


  1. Personality

Videos or photos should provide a small glimpse into physician’s history or life.  For patients seeking a personal connection with their physician, this will help build the trust they are seeking with someone they intend to trust with their health and life.


  1. Expertise

Video or photos can reflect the types of conditions the physician treats and the types of treatment provided. Displaying the physician’s advanced level of technique or knowledge would also be beneficial. (Reminder: protect patient confidentiality)


  1. Advocacy and Education

Videos or photos can provide health tips or health insights that are valuable to the patients. These insights provide the patient’s with the sense that their physician is present in their life and constantly providing small bits of knowledge that are in the interests of their health. This helps build the lasting relationship between the physician and patient.


Physicians can expect to see the following benefits:

  • Increased patient satisfaction and higher retention rates (from increased sense of connection and trust with physician)
  • Increased volumes of patients


While social media may not be fully embraced by geriatric patients and some segments of the baby boomer population, the intentional alignment engagement strategies with the prospective and current patients with the way that these populations communicate and interact will prove to be valuable for physicians seeking to increase their practice and build strong and loyal patient base.

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