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Practice Management: How could you use social media to benefit your practice?

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Social media is a powerful tool. Human resource managers are using it increasingly to filter out undesirable applicants during the recruitment process. Banks have even been said to google loan applicants and small businesses before advancing finance. It's not surprising, then, that the CQC trawls social media for "early intelligence" of potential problems.

Some GP practices are fighting back against what others consider to be highly controversial use of what could be vindictive online comments. They've started to use social media for their own advantage.

We've previously written about the issue of consent when using social media. In this article, I'll look at four of the ways that practice managers have told us they use social media to benefit their practice. You may be able to use some or all of these strategies yourself (remembering about potential consent issues).

1. Extend your reach and get quality feedback

In a study in the United States, almost two-thirds of doctors said that social media improves the quality of care. It allows a practice to reach out to younger patients, and provides a quick and easy way to consult with patients. If your doctors are going to consult remotely (perhaps via Skype, for example), make sure they understand the rules of doing so.

Social media platforms like Facebook also enable patients to provide instant feedback. Let your patients know that you're happy to receive feedback on Facebook – a high number of positive feedback is evidence that your practice is doing things the right way.

If you get a number of negative reviews, make sure that you take note of what patients are saying. Let this feedback inform your training provision, and document the actions you've taken: all great evidence to provide to the CQC.

You could also use social media interaction to inform your practice about the main health concerns within the community, and develop programmes around these.

2. Share health tips and drive online traffic

Be the source of information in a world full of health misinformation. Your patients trust you more than most other people − utilise this trust positively online. Start a blog, and use posts to detail current health issues and treatment.

Make sure that appointment cards, waiting room notice boards, and other printed materials publicise your online presence. Publish tasters on Facebook and Twitter to drive traffic to your website and blog.

3. Promote the practice

Social media is an excellent forum to promote your practice in the local community. If you hold clinics or other events, make sure you spread the word via your social media accounts. Social media is no-cost advertising.

Encourage your patients to share your social media posts, and be sure to include valuable content in every blog or post your write.

4. Tell the world of your successes

Patients love to read about other patients' successes. They act as testimonials and increase confidence in your practice – especially if other patients can identify with the success stories.

Don't forget that you need to get permission to use patient stories, or write in such a way that their identities won't be given away (far more difficult than it sounds!). If a patient will share their story in a video, or allow photos to be published, the message becomes even more compelling.

Do you have a social media policy?

Social media is a great tool to promote your practice and connect with patients. Instead of viewing it as a way for the CQC to spy on your practice, put in place a policy that enables you to accentuate the positives.

By using feedback to inform your practice policies and training, you'll be evidencing that you take feedback seriously and can adapt to the needs of the community. The way to achieve this is not by an ad hoc, haphazard approach; you need a social media policy and someone to lead it.

eSupplies Medical is a trading name of Williams Medical Supplies Ltd, a DCC business