“It’s where the patients are.” This phrase is often used to describe why more physicians should be participating in social media platforms. The argument being that the patients are engaging in these social media communities, so physicians must also be there for this reason. If we think about the purpose being to sustain some aspect of the marketing for the clinic, then we might start with the value of creating awareness of the clinic and physician in the geographic community surrounding the clinic. However, when it comes to positioning the clinic as one that is different within this competitive geographic community there is also value in being where others are not. In this case, referring to the differentiation of the clinic’s services and culture of care in both the online and physical community. The next part of the conversation is to convert that awareness from the marketing efforts to the sale or in this case, the patient relationship in the clinic.
The question of what makes us different from our competitors is one that can give pause to many people in the clinic, even beyond just the physicians. I’ve been involved in these conversations where the first response to this question is: “we care about people”. From the patient’s point of view, caring is important but it’s also a fundamental assumption of what every experience should be in the clinic regardless of specialty or size. So again, the question of what makes us different. If this were a sales meeting, the conversation would include the question: “Where is the next sale coming from?” There is an important connection between the marketing message of any clinic and the current national dialogue on accountability of patient care. From ‘big data’ to population health to clinical outcomes for an individual patient, there is an important starting point in the clinic about how to be different in terms of being accountable and social with every patient relationship.
While there certainly are patients in online communities, there are even more patients in the community surrounding the clinic who might be willing bring their trust into the clinic and to pay for services. Whether its online or offline with a marketing effort for the clinic, a cornerstone of this effort is a willingness for a fully engaged staff to be social and engage patients as well as each other in an accountable process of care. It is a big transition for some in the clinic to accept this idea that being social actually matters in the delivery of care regardless of whether it’s in online or offline interactions. The value of the marketing effort for the clinic has as much to do with the patient experience in the course of one’s life as it does in the course of a scheduled clinical encounter. It’s also a cornerstone in measuring outcomes and changing behaviors in a process of accountable care. Therein lies the reason for physicians to participate in social media platforms, because its an extension of being social with patients to build on the trust they bring to the clinical encounter. So the question is: How accountable is everyone willing to be in the clinic both for care and being social with every patient over time?