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4 steps healthcare providers should take before using social media for business

Discover how to set your healthcare practice up for success on social media.

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Regularly posting quality content to social media profiles like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ is key to growing your online reputation. However, getting started with social media for business can be daunting, particularly for healthcare providers who must be careful not to violate HIPAA laws.

Here, we share a few steps you should take before using social media to promote your healthcare practice online.

Talk to Your Staff About Social Media for Business

According to Pew Research Center, nearly 70% of all U.S. adults used at least one social media site in 2016. That number could be even higher today. This means it’s likely that some or all members of your office staff use social media for personal enjoyment and are familiar with how the different sites work.

This is good, as you won’t have to spend time teaching people basic tasks like how to publish a post or create a photo album. However, you will have to teach them that social media best practices for business often differ from how they use social media personally.

Most importantly, you should emphasize that every action they take on your practice’s social media profiles is a reflection of the practice. Therefore, they should never do anything that does not jive with your practice mission or brand.

Related: Facebook 101 for Healthcare Providers

Ensure Your Staff Understands HIPAA Regulations

You and your staff know not to reveal protected health information, and yet healthcare providers have been known to reveal patient information online, often in reply to negative reviews or feedback.

To keep yourself and your practice safe from legal violations, you should thoroughly review HIPAA regulations with your staff. And before you publish any content on social media, always make sure:

  • Content does not divulge any protected health identifiers, including name, address, birth date, telephone number, and so on;
  • patient information does not appear in photos;
  • and patients are not tagged or photographed without express written consent approved by your attorney.

HIPAA privacy guidelines might scare some healthcare providers away from social media, but you have nothing fear as long as you abide by the rules and your staff does, too. And if you’re ever unsure of whether something violates HIPAA, play it safe and leave it out.

More on This: Social Media HIPAA Guidelines for Healthcare Providers

Create a Social Media Style Guide

Whether you have one person or multiple staff posting to your healthcare practice’s social media profiles, updates should seem as if they’re coming from one person. To do this, you should create a style guide that outlines exactly how posts look and read.

Your style guide should:

  • explain overall tone,
  • discuss the use of contractions and other informal language conventions,
  • and show where to use links and hashtags.

When creating your style guide, it is helpful to include examples of what to do and what not to do. The more clearly you demonstrate exactly how you want your posts to look and sound, the easier it will be for your staff to follow instructions.

Designate a Social Media Lead

More than one person can be given access to your practice’s social media profiles; however, you should designate a single person to serve as project lead. This person will read all posts before publishing to make sure they follow brand guidelines and do not contain any grammatical, punctuation, or factual errors. They will also be responsible for engaging with people who comment on posts or send direct messages.

Look for a team member with:

  • extensive knowledge of the terms and conditions of each platform,
  • excellent writing skills,
  • a proven track record with your practice,
  • a deep understanding of your healthcare practice brand,
  • and strong knowledge of HIPAA regulations.

Want more social media help? Check out the blog “20 Ways Healthcare Practices Can Increase Social Media Reach.”

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