Social Media in Healthcare: HOW to Use It & Improve Patient Engagement

Last week we covered the benefits of using social media in healthcare and 3 reasons WHY your healthcare facility needs a social media presence.

Here are some specific tips on HOW to use social media in healthcare to improve patient engagement:

Improve patient engagement. Social media in healthcare can improve patient engagement because it encourages patients to take a more active role in their healthcare experience. Social media sites are meant to connect people! As you use social media, make it your goal to improve patient engagement and let that goal inform the content you share.

Support your patients. Patients need emotional support when it comes to dealing with physical and mental health issues. You can use social media to provide helpful resources, including recommendations for virtual support groups where patients can find encouragement from the experiences of others going through similar situations (or share their own stories). These online communities can be vital to the emotional well-being of patients with rare conditions who have trouble finding (or attending) a face-to-face group, or for those who simply prefer an online environment.

Educate your patients. Use social media to share healthy living tips, post informational blogs, or promote your organization’s public health campaigns. Social media provides an excellent opportunity to make public health campaigns highly interactive, further helping you to improve patient engagement. You can find some great real-life examples here.

VISUALS. Some social media users don’t take the time to read lengthy articles, so try delivering your message using visuals. Pictures, infographics, memes, and videos grab users’ attention as they scroll online, convey an idea quickly, and are shared easily across different social media sites.

Use healthcare hashtags to connect. The Healthcare Hashtag Project has organized an extensive database of healthcare hashtags currently in use. Access to the list is free and can help you select popular healthcare hashtags relevant to the topics, articles, and images you post.

Make sure your online presence is always mobile-friendly! Many users access social media primarily (or solely) on their smartphones. 90% of those who use Facebook daily do so via mobile phones. Patients or potential future patients may access your website by following a link from your Facebook page. So be sure to complete a mobile-friendly test. Websites that don’t pass the test can appear to have unprofessional formatting issues when viewed on a smartphone.

Be aware of ethical standards for online conduct and legal regulations. Patient privacy and HIPAA compliance are always top concerns when any form of communication with patients is considered. It’s important to know the laws, educate your employees, and develop an organizational social media policy. However, don’t let fear or inexperience deter you from using social media. The advantages of using social media in healthcare and its power to improve patient engagement make learning to navigate the rules and regulations well worth it. 

For additional tips on using social media in healthcare, check out the CDC’s Social Media Toolkit for health communicators. The more you learn about this valuable tool, the better you can leverage it to reach your patients and improve patient engagement.