The Case for Engaging Patients on Their Turf
by Bonnie Freitas, Marketing Assistant
The return of flu season reminds us that there is something new in the air: more doctors and patients are engaging outside the exam room, online.
It’s already commonplace for patients to research their symptoms online and even to self-diagnose. They might put themselves at ease, or they might gravitate towards worst-case scenarios (I don’t just have a stiff neck, I have meningitis!). Either way, doctors have less control of the conversation—which is often their worst-case scenario.
Many physicians are responding by stepping up their end of the conversation via social media. And it’s not just to assert control. They see it as an opportunity to make more meaningful connections. According to a study done by YouGov, “twenty-five percent of consumers said that they are likely to connect with hospitals via social media in the future.” And that number is only growing.
Physicians need to be accessible on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Whether it’s tweeting on ways to prevent the flu this season or encouraging their patients to come in for their annual checkup, doctors’ activity on social media is becoming more important in making or breaking their patient-doctor relationships.
The problem for physicians is that opting out is not neutral. It can hurt a practice. That’s because as more and more patients engage online more often, they will gravitate towards physicians who choose to engage online, whoever they are—including quacks.
Engaging online is not just a preference. It is, arguably, a responsibility.