5 Social Media Marketing Mistakes Healthcare Professionals Make

Laptop and phone engaging with social media in a healthcare office

Do you remember the days before social media? No matter whether you’re GenX or from the “Okay, Boomer” cohort, and no matter how hard you fought against it, the use of social media platforms has no doubt become part of your personal and professional life. But aside from posting (and watching) cat videos or whatever the latest TikTok challenge is, are you using social media to its best advantage for your practice? From attracting new patients to keeping current ones engaged and informed, social media can be an invaluable tool, but only if you’re using it correctly. Many practices follow misguided strategies with a decision to abandon its use entirely, and that’s a mistake. Social media works only if you have the right mindset and avoid making the most common marketing mistakes. Let’s first take a quick look at the right way to think about social media marketing and then pinpoint some pitfalls to avoid. The Right Approach to Social Media Marketing  When marketers first realized the power and potential of social media, they immediately began to focus on building big communities. Getting followers and clicks became the mantra and mindset, and that was quickly adopted by businesses of all stripes, including medical practices. Unfortunately, follows didn’t necessarily flow into expanded patient rolls, and as the effort to generate new content yielded too few rewards, practice managers quickly gave up. Today, medical practices with successful social media marketing campaigns have a completely different mindset. Rather than trying to convert clicks into appointments, they’ve recognized that social media platforms’ greatest utility lies in the ease with which you can educate and engage your patients – whether they’re current or potential.  By providing useful information that answers pre-existing questions, you become a trusted authority rather than another page demanding that viewers ‘click here.’  The other important use of social media is to build knowledge about your practice. The more people know about what sets you apart – whether it’s your areas of expertise, the comfort of your waiting room, the expertise of your providers, or the compassion with which you treat your patients – the more likely you are to be the one that people turn to when they need care. Common Social Media Mistakes That Healthcare Professionals Make Now that you know the right way to go about things, let’s look at the most common mistakes healthcare professionals make when trying to market their practices online. Don’t worry about it if you’re making some – or even all – of them. Reading this is the first step to correcting the error of your ways and improving your online engagement efforts. 1.     Thinking of medical office marketing as a transaction When it comes to medical care, patients – especially potential patients – make decisions based on perceived competence and compassion rather than persuasion. Snake oil salesmen may no longer be hawking their cures from the backs of horse-drawn wagons, but their image is still with us, and people instinctively distrust doctors who are trying to sell them on their services. Rather than thinking of your social media account as a promotional tool, work instead to provide the information that patients need – and that they’ll share with their friends and family members. Offering timely content that’s relevant to what’s going on in patients’ lives – sun protection during the summer; flu shot information; and guidance on cancer screening tests — is the best way to connect, engage, and inspire trust.  2.     Failing to respond to negative reviews or encourage positive ones More and more patients are turning to physician review sites when making their provider decisions. If you have a negative review voicing frustration with long wait times or surly service, you can be sure that it will have a long life unless you do something about it. Responding to negative reviews in a positive and welcoming way, and fixing the problem, is a powerful way to turn a bad situation around. And you can improve things even more if you ask your patients to submit positive reviews on these popular sites. They’re worth their weight in gold. 3.     Not using video. Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok are all popular, shareable social media sites that can attract a lot of attention if used correctly, and the best use of these platforms is with video. If you post a photo and a lot of wordy content, there’s a good chance that people will scroll right past. But if you use an attention-grabbing video, people are far more likely to stop, watch, and share. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to shoot a video of one of your physicians explaining a new treatment or talking about the benefits of a new medication. And you don’t need to limit these highlights to the doctors on staff. Have your front office staff give a video ‘tour’ of your office or explain the check-in process. Prepare a quick presentation walking people through your patient portal. When you calm people’s concerns and answer their questions about your practice on video, you make yourself much more memorable and appealing. 4.     Ignoring digital marketing completely. No matter how long you’ve been in practice or how much you may dislike social media, ignoring its popularity and its usefulness is one of the biggest mistakes you – or any business – can make. One of the first things most potential patients do when they’re looking for a healthcare professional is either a Google search or posting a plea for a recommendation online, to their social media community. Practices that have not invested in creating a robust online presence – whether through an informative website or an active Facebook page, or that have failed to claim their Google business listing and provide simple information about hours, location, and insurance accepted, are letting opportunities slip through their fingers. 5.     Not keeping up with new technology. You may not think of your office technology

Navigating the Complexities of HIPAA Compliance for Your Practice

When you work in healthcare, hearing about HIPAA is inevitable. There is a ton of information online about HIPAA, but finding information related to your business can be challenging as a small healthcare practice. Here are some HIPAA FAQs for smaller practices…  What is the HIPAA Privacy Rule? The HIPAA Privacy Rule dictates the proper uses and disclosures of protected health information (PHI). This includes sharing PHI between providers, health plans, and business associates.  What is the HIPAA Security Rule? The HIPAA Security Rule dictates the security measures that are required to be in place to secure PHI. This Rule requires organizations to implement security measures that are “reasonable and appropriate” for their organization. This means that it is not expected for a sole practitioner doctor’s office to have the same security measures in place that a hospital has. To determine the appropriate measures for your organization, you must conduct a security risk assessment annually. What is the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule? The Breach Notification Rule requires healthcare organizations to report breaches that compromise the privacy or security of PHI. Breaches affecting less than 500 patients must be reported to affected patients and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS’) Office for Civil Rights (OCR). These breaches can be reported annually (by March 1 of the year following). Breaches affecting 500 or more patients must be reported to affected patients, HHS’ OCR, and media outlets. These breaches must be reported within sixty (60) days of discovering the incident. HIPAA and Patient Information What is protected health information? Protected health information is individually identifiable health information created, used, or disclosed during diagnosis or treatment. This can relate to the past, present, or future healthcare provision. The Department of Health and Human Services classifies PHI into 18 identifiers as follows: Name Address  Any dates (except years) that are directly related to an individual, including birthday, date of admission or discharge, date of death, or the exact age of individuals older than 89 Telephone number Fax number Email address Social Security number Medical record number Health plan beneficiary number Account number Certificate/license number Vehicle identifiers, serial numbers, or license plate numbers Device identifiers or serial numbers Web URLs IP address Biometric identifiers such as fingerprints or voiceprints Full-face photos Any other unique identifying numbers, characteristics, or codes. What is a Notice of Privacy Practices? A Notice of Privacy Practices (NPP) describes how the healthcare organization may and may not use PHI and patients’ rights and obligations concerning PHI. The NPP must be distributed to patients on or before their first visit, and a copy must be available for patients upon request.  What is a HIPAA authorization form? Healthcare practices must obtain an authorization form from patients to use or disclose their PHI for purposes beyond treatment, payment, or healthcare operations. The HIPAA Privacy Rule requires that an individual provide signed authorization before the entity may use or disclose PHI for certain purposes. This authorization form enables healthcare practices to use the patient’s PHI for marketing purposes or for reasons other than regular use and disclosures. What is the HIPAA minimum necessary standard? The HIPAA Privacy Rule dictates that PHI use and disclosure should be limited to only the minimum necessary to perform a job function. This means that healthcare providers should only access a patient’s PHI when they need to do so. The minimum necessary standard also requires PHI access to be limited based on an employee’s job role and PHI access to be monitored and logged to ensure adherence to the standard. What is the HIPAA right of access? The HIPAA Privacy Rule generally provides individuals with a legal, enforceable right to see and receive copies, upon request, of the information in their medical and other health records maintained by their healthcare providers and health plans. This right is known as the HIPAA right of access. Under this standard, patients must be provided their requested records within thirty (30) days of the request in the format they requested them in. HIPAA Violations and Fines What is considered a violation of HIPAA? HIPAA violations occur when healthcare organizations fail to make a “good faith effort” to ensure PHI’s confidentiality, integrity, or availability. Failure to address just one requirement of HIPAA can result in a HIPAA violation, subjecting the organization to fines and corrective actions. Common HIPAA violations include: Improper use or disclosure of PHI Failure to conduct a risk assessment Failure to encrypt devices containing PHI when it was reasonable to do so Failure to comply with the HIPAA right of access standard How are HIPAA fine amounts determined? The HHS OCR determines fine amounts based on the level of perceived negligence.  Tier 1 is the “No Knowledge” Tier. Under this tier, an organization did not know that a member of its workforce violated a HIPAA provision. The maximum fine amount under this tier is $58,000 per violation.  Tier 2 is the “Reasonable Cause” Tier. Under this tier, the violation was due to reasonable cause, not willful neglect. The maximum fine amount under this tier is $58,000 per violation.  Tier 3 is the “Willful Neglect – Corrected” Tier. Under this tier, the violation is due to willful neglect, but the violation is timely corrected. The maximum fine amount under this tier is $58,000 per violation.  Tier 4 is the “Willful Neglect – Not Corrected” Tier. Under this tier, the violation is due to willful neglect and is not timely corrected. The maximum fine amount under this tier is $1.75 million per violation. 

The Key to Successful Patient Engagement: How to Appeal to Modern-Day Patients

Engaged Patient reading text message

What’s the secret to keeping patients engaged with your healthcare clinic and practice and coming back for future treatment? Heading into 2020, the answer to successful patient engagement is simple: Convenience. According to a survey by NRC Health’s Market Insights, more than half (51%) of patients say convenience and access to care are the most important factors they consider when choosing a healthcare provider. That places convenience ahead of insurance coverage (46%), doctor and nurse conduct (44%), brand reputation (40%), and quality of care (35%). And what does convenience look like for patients? It involves things like: Fast treatment (e.g., low wait times). Flexible treatment hours (e.g., after-hours care). Easy access to their healthcare information (e.g., electronic health records). The ability to be treated by a doctor without having to come into their office or clinic (e.g., telemedicine). But one critical aspect of convenience in healthcare cannot be overlooked is… Convenient patient communication. Healthcare providers today need to realize that the modern-day patient is digitally driven. Consider the fact that the average American spends over 6.5 hours a day, with the majority of that time being spent on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Furthermore, Americans check their phones 80 times a day. So, what does this mean for healthcare providers?   It means healthcare providers rethink the way they’re communicating with patients. They need to find ways to reach out to patients using the channels they most prefer–which, for many patients, are text or email. When physicians and other healthcare providers use a variety of methods and channels for reaching out to their patients, they not only provide a higher level of convenience and smoother patient experience, but they also set up their clinics and practices for greater success. That’s because by being on the digital platforms patients prefer, healthcare providers are able to stay visible and top-of-mind to their patients–keeping them aware of and engaged with the healthcare clinic or practice, which helps to keep patients coming back for care in the future. As a result, healthcare providers who want to boost their patient engagement and retention rates should consider using automated communications that allow them to share the following with patients via email and SMS messaging: Appointment reminders and confirmation requests that help reduce no-shows. Coupons and promotions that keep patients interested in scheduling future appointments. Personalized messages that help the patient feel a closer connection with the clinic or practice. Digital newsletters that provide patients with important announcements and information to help them better manage their health. Physicians and healthcare organizations that effectively leverage these forms of automated patient outreach are able to benefit in the following four ways: Higher revenue   Every time a patient misses an appointment, it typically costs a physician an average of $200–and looking at the impact on the industry as a whole, appointment no-shows cost the U.S. healthcare system more than $150 billion a year. Automated appointment reminders and confirmation requests help to fill this gap. Research shows that sending patients appointment reminders can reduce no-shows by a whopping 80%. Therefore, by being proactive and reminding patients about scheduled appointments, healthcare providers have significant potential to maximize their revenue and increase patient engagement. While many medical offices and clinics already engage in the practice of calling patients to remind them of their appointments, the reality is that this is no longer good enough to meet the demands of today’s digitally-savvy patients.  With the increased use of the Internet and mobile devices, more and more patients today now prefer to be contacted via text or email rather than just by phone (especially Millennials and members of Generation Z)–and they expect their healthcare providers to accommodate to those preferences.  As a result, automated appointment reminders sent to patients’ digital devices are an incredibly powerful tactic for keeping the attention of patients and bringing them through the door more consistently, which helps to maximize revenue. Reduced costs   In addition to securing and adding revenue to a healthcare provider, automated patient outreach solutions can save time and workflow efficiency for a clinic’s or practice’s office staff–which ultimately results in reduced costs.  Calling patients takes a considerable amount of time. As a result, when some of those communications are moved to a platform that automatically pushes out appointment reminders, appointment confirmations, and patient updates, medical professionals and their support personnel have more time in their day to focus on other important tasks, such as engaging with patients face-to-face. This gives healthcare providers the ability to ensure they’ve delivered an excellent experience that leaves the right impression and builds stronger patient relationships. It also allows them to better utilize their existing staff and avoid making unnecessary hires for tasks that can be handled through technological automation. Better marketing   When it comes to patient communications, every single touchpoint is an opportunity to promote the healthcare clinic, practice, or organization. Even when someone is an existing patient, they always have the ability to go elsewhere for care. Therefore, it’s important for healthcare providers to keep their brand name, image, and message in front of their patients, which is critical for any healthcare provider’s marketing efforts.  The more familiar and engaged a patient is with a healthcare provider and their brand, the more likely they are to continue their relationship with that provider–which leads to the next benefit of automated patient outreach. Increased patient loyalty and engagement   Patients today hold the healthcare industry to a higher standard. They don’t just want doctors and clinicians who see them for 30 minutes and then send them on their way–they want healthcare providers who are more involved in helping them manage their health. That’s why they value healthcare providers who are active in educating them about best practices for healthier living, whether that’s tips about how to avoid getting the flu or information about the latest treatments available for people with certain conditions. Automated patient outreach makes it easier for healthcare providers to share this type of information