Social Media: Is there an ROI for a Medical Practice?

When you have a waiting room full of patients, stacks and stacks of labs to review, letters to sign, statements to send out, insurance claims to process, and 100’s of phone calls to answer (with patients that need more info on their condition, prescription refills, prior-auth request, insurance forms to fill out etc.) is there any good reason to jump on the social media bandwagon if it isn’t going to give me a return on investment.

Most, if not all medical practices are burden with an immense amount of work and are staffed as thin as can be. Thus, adding yet another task, like Facebooking (I think I just made up a word)  and Twittering to the mix just doesn’t seem feasible if I can’t see tangible return… right?

Many social media initiatives are non-measurable and if not done with a specific intent, can be a huge time waster. But if you think about it differently, and have clarity in the matter, you might find it very valuable.

I approach our social media efforts like a hotel concierge service. A hotel concierge doesn’t really provide a tangible ROI to the hotel. The concierge doesn’t sell anything, really. But the benefit the concierge desk provides to guest is immensely valuable.

  1. Our social media efforts accomplishes among other things:
  2. Maintain a conversation with our patients (engagement)
  3. Keep our patients informed of pediatric related news or practice news
  4. Directs patients to good, reliable sources of online information
  5. Provides additional insight to potential patients about our practice, our office and more important, our docs.
  6. 6. Gives the practice a personality

Let’s say a patient is looking for a peds office, comes across our webpage and sees the usual stuff a medical office webpage has. Then decides to Google our name or my doc’s name and finds we have a Twitter and Facebook account. She checks out Facebook and sees how we engage with our patients, how we answer questions, what type of feedback we provide and resource among other things. Compare that to the medical office down the street that just has YellowPage.com listing. Waste of time? I think not.

The truth is, we do a lot of stuff for our patients and their family that don’t have a ROI on investment (what is the ROI for the your landscaping?), but that doesn’t mean our efforts are in useless or ineffective.

Social Media in a medical practice gives you the opportunity to be involved with your community outside of the practice. Moreover, it can also serve as an extension for the practice by solidifying the practice as a trusted source of information online. And lastly, it serves a marketing opportunity. Surely there is ROI in all these things.

What are your thoughts? Am I off the beaten track or do you see value in social media?

Image via: http://technmarketing.com

13 thoughts on “Social Media: Is there an ROI for a Medical Practice?”

  1. This post is complete nonsense. A hotel concierge provides measureable ROI. Do a split-test, one week with concierge vs one week without, and then measure number of returning customers. I’m pretty sure you’ll a difference. Do the same with your social media campaign, set up a tracking code with patients who come in through social media and look at that pool vs the non social media group, or look at how many new patients come through social media. My guess is that it’s a tiny, non measureable %, but certainly not unquantifiable.

  2. I stumbled across this thread this morning. I am a retina specialist in northern Virginia. Through websites and social media, I have become my own largest referral source outside our multispecialty practice.

    I agree with everyone’s comments, but would like to add that social media leads to transparency. This transparency, unlike the older days (my dad is a doc, too), will lead to an engagement/relationship/dialogue, whatever, that is new to my generation (I am 50) of physicians. This dialogue is the most powerful and meaningful attribute of social media.

    For now, it may seem trivial, but those practices taking the time, now, to change their “personality/branding” a la FaceBook, Twitter and their web pages will win.

    Shortly, it will really be easy to measure your ROI.

    Doctor’s are traditionally dictatorial in their relationships…..people are not.

    1. Dr. Wong,

      The transparency issues I think is one issue that most MD fear. Not everyone wants to be transparent. Not because they are hiding something, but because people might misinterpret them.

      As the medium matures, and we start to figure out how all this really works, I think people will start to come around.

      Thanks for commenting.

      1. I couldn’t agree with you more. Our training teaches us not to be transparent. For us (docs), this stuff is counter-traditional. We are not used to this! Unfortunately, or fortunately, this is the key to our future!

        People have come around, docs will, too….as they lawyers have.

        Keep writing!

        Randy

  3. It comes down to the goals of the practice. Engaging in social media just to ‘engage’ has low ROI. All businesses need to consider the purpose for building community. Often in health care the purpose is to educate, inform, spread accurate health care info. But social media can also be used to grow new income streams, lab new ways to support people with chronic illness or who need more than a 15 minute appointment. Start with goals, then engage…

    1. If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable. Having goals makes all the difference in the world.

      Thanks for th comment Susan.

  4. Good post.
    I agree that Social Media has a place in the healthcare industry. I disagree that social media initiatives are non measurable. More specifically, with the correct data, some health systems are beginning to see significant ROI (in money form!!) from their Social Media strategies. The key: Make social media a part of your overall marketing strategy.
    I am a nurse and I blog about healthcare, nursing, technology, and social media at http://sarahbethrn.com/

  5. That is the trick tho’… getting people to actually use it an engage. Once we dive into all this new stuff, we start to get it. But it is so hard to see the potential from the outside… it looks silly.

    Appreciate you stopping by Dr. Smith.

    Brandon

  6. I am often reminded of some of my father’s wisest advice…
    “Do what you love, the money will follow.” That said, I assure you that there are physicians and practices who gain immense satisfaction in the successful relationships they’ve built with patients and their families. If Facebook and Twitter are tools as well as toys to enjoy in the building of relationships, then I suspect those practices (like yours and mine 🙂 who use them often are, in fact, seeing a palpable ROI. It’s just paid in in new and satisfying connections rather than in a monetary way.

  7. I think you are spot on. Patients– and consumers of all types– often shop around online before them make a phone call or visit a location. (Who looks in the paper Yellow Pages anymore?) I think it is particularly important for physicians whose patients are… well… younger– like yours. Pediatricians’ patients’ parents are most likely under 40. It would be silly not to have an online presence. Facebook allows one to separate friends into different categories; if doctors want to separate their private lives from their professional lives, they can.

    One thing to add– doctors and other businessmen should regularly google themselves to see what is being said about them online. There are websites where happy and unhappy patients can rate their experiences with physicians.

    Blog on!

    1. I think pediatricians are in a unique position to really leverage social media and some of the technologies we currently have. Our demographic will always skew younger. And who usually adopts new tech earlier than the rest? Young people…

      Thank you for your comments Pamela.

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