How to Engage and Acquire Patients via Social Media | Online Reputation Management for Doctors |

Building up your medical practice's social media network, and even acquiring new patients through that network, may be easier than you think.

At the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference in Chicago, presenter Melody Smith Jones, manager of connected health at Perficient, Inc ., an IT consulting firm, told attendees that health systems hoping to find success through social media should find out where their prospective audience is online, whether it is Facebook, LinkedIn, or another platform, and become part of the conversation taking place there. You have to meet th em where they are, she said.

Since patients are already on social media, and already searching the Internet for health information, social media provides a great opportunity for health systems to step in and provide it, said Jones.

Jones, whose session was entitled "Converting Unknown Consumers into Patients," said a good place to start is by identifying the "centers of excellence" for the major health initiatives that you are trying to tackle at your organization. Pick three to five of those things, she said, and then start engaging with a social media community that is already discussing those things online.

For instance, if one of your key initiatives is to improve care for diabetic patients, find a diabetic patient community online, and then start sharing relevant information, such as small steps patients can take to improve their health, a blog post related to an item members of the community are discussing, and other relevant information that the community might like to learn more about.

Jones said one of her clients had great success by sharing a short quiz to on the risk for heart disease to a social media community interested in that topic. When members of the community took the assessment, they received personalized recommendations related to their results. 

Ultimately, if practices build up an engaged community and establish credibility and bond with that community, it could lead to patient conversions for the practice. Some conversion tools health systems might consider using include inviting members of the social media community to schedule a health-related class at the health system, or sharing information with members that helps them learn more about a provider.