Responding to Social Media Posts: 5 Things to Consider

Social media has changed the way people interact with brands, companies and doctors. People have become more comfortable reaching out to businesses online. A 2012 study by NM Incite found that 47 percent of consumers use social media platforms to contact a brand or company with a question or issue. It’s important to know how to respond to comments and avoid HIPAA violations. Here are five points to keep in mind:

A bland response is better than no response.

If potential patients visit your social media pages and notice that you have not addressed questions or comment, they will assume you don’t care. Even a generic response like, “Thanks for bringing this to our attention, we will work with our staff to prevent this from happening in the future,” shows you care about what people have to say about your practice.

A carefully planned response will preserve your online reputation.

Reading a patient complaint is never fun, and your response will be scrutinized. Don’t sound defensive in your response, as this will only make the problem worse. Instead of immediately responding while emotions are flared, take a moment to decompress first. Think your response through and consider the possible outcomes that may come from your response.

Do not discuss patient specifics.

When it comes to patient privacy, traditional marketing rules generally apply to social media and online marketing. It is a HIPAA violation to post specifics about a patient online.   Even confirming or denying that the person who left the comment is one of your patients can get you into trouble. If you need to discuss patient specifics, ask them to call your office to discuss further.

Never initiate outside contact.

In many states, doctors are legally required to obtain a patient’s written consent before communicating with them electronically. To err on the safe side, contact patients via phone. You can provide a phone number in your response and ask the person who left the comment to initiate contact by calling your practice.

Treat complaints as constructive criticism.

Most complaints left on your social media pages will pertain to the management of your office, not the competency of your physicians. Pay attention to what your patients are saying about wait times, ease of making an appointment or the courtesy of your staff. Use this kind of feedback to make positive changes in your office. Respond to comments by sharing what improvements you are making.

Most people who post questions, concerns or complaints on your social media pages aren’t looking to cause trouble. People just want to have their concerns acknowledged and addressed. Consider the five points above when responding to posts on social media to ensure you handle it appropriately.


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