“How would you like patients to contact your practice?” asked Jeff Takacs in his session intro at the annual meeting of the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA). “Your answer should be: However they prefer.”
For many patients, that preference includes Facebook. Nearly 70 percent of all Americans are on Facebook, according to a 2018 survey by the Pew Research Center. Knowing this, many people in the medical practice management space are turning to this social network to engage with current and future patients.
At this year’s MGMA meeting, Takacs, who is the Director of Content for MGMA, ran an interactive session on these very issues. “When prospective patients go to your Facebook page, take advantage of their familiarity with the app to get them scheduled,” he said. Session attendees agreed, with many reporting use of a dedicated person to continuously monitor their Facebook page.
The cost of this in man hours as well as paid advertising seemed to be well worth it, considering the reported benefits which include patient retention, practice growth, and management of physician reputation.
According to Takacs, patients will often visit a practice’s Facebook page when they are getting cold feet about an upcoming appointment. They expect that practice to behave online as they would in person. Seeing an active page with prompt, polite communication between the office and patients can make all the difference.
Just as a practice may once have bought a half page ad in a local football program, practices today are utilizing Boosted Posts. One attendee pointed out that the big difference is that this form of paid advertising is considerably cheaper, and it has the potential to reach many more eyes.
Even the very best physicians will have some unhappy patients. Today those patients can get on line and express themselves quite loudly. This can happen on Facebook whether you have a page or not. If you are there, though, you have a chance to mitigate the damage a “bad review” can do. Takacs recommends responding to those patients with polite acknowledgement and an offer to help solve the issue offline.
Takacs and the group at MGMA aren’t the only ones to recognize this value. There are an ever-increasing number of medical practices engaging their patients on Facebook. Here are three neurology practices (your competitors?) putting their pages to good use:
Barrow has a well developed and active Facebook Page with a robust About section and a ton of patient reviews (with frequent and friendly responses from the Barrow team). As of this writing, Barrow had at least one post per day with good community engagement. They also use lots of professional, yet warm, images that grab your attention and make their posts more likely to get noticed.
This practice has integrated their YouTube channel into their page so you meet their doctors virtually and get a great overview of their practice. They also provide summaries and link-backs to the blog that lives on their website. Their contact information is clear and they provide a list of their services on their Facebook page.
This smaller practice makes great use of their Facebook page to announce practice news. These include things like office closings and a 2020 relocation. They also show terrific community involvement with announcements of local events they have and will be attending. Their page also sports plenty of photos of their fun and friendly staff.
A more recent and particularly useful addition to Facebook’s pages is the call-to-action button. Here you can direct patients to learn more about your practice, make an appointment, send a direct message, shop on your website, or even download your app.
With so many options, you are likely to find a setup that best fits your practice and your patients. Remember, your neurology patients are already there. It’s time you join them.