“How would you like patients to contact your practice?” asked Jeff Takacs in his session intro at the annual meeting of the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA). “Your answer should be: However they prefer.”

For many patients, that preference includes Facebook. Nearly 70 percent of all Americans are on Facebook, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center. Knowing this, many people in the medical practice management space are turning to this social network to engage with current and future patients.

At the 2019 MGMA meeting, Takacs — who is the director of content for MGMA — ran an interactive session on these very issues. When prospective patients go to your Facebook page, he advised, “take advantage of their familiarity with the app to get them scheduled.” Session attendees agreed, with many reporting using a dedicated person to continuously monitor their Facebook page.

The cost of this in man hours as well as paid advertising seemed to be well worth it, considering the reported benefits: patient retention, practice growth, and management of physician reputation.

Patient Retention

According to Takacs, patients will often visit a practice’s Facebook page when they are getting cold feet about an upcoming appointment. They expect that practice to behave online as they would in person. Seeing an active page with prompt, polite communication between the office and patients can make all the difference.

Practice Growth

Just as a practice may once have bought a half-page ad in a local football program, practices today are utilizing boosted posts. One attendee pointed out that the big difference is that this form of paid advertising is considerably cheaper, and it has the potential to reach many more eyes.

Reputation Management

Even the very best physicians will have some unhappy patients. Today those patients can get on line and express themselves quite loudly. This can happen on Facebook whether you have a page or not.

If you are there, though, you have a chance to mitigate the damage a “bad review” can do. Takacs recommends responding to those patients with polite acknowledgement and an offer to help solve the issue offline.

Takacs and the group at MGMA aren’t the only ones to recognize this value. There are an ever-increasing number of medical practices engaging their patients on Facebook.

A particularly useful addition to Facebook’s pages is the call-to-action button. Here you can direct patients to learn more about your practice, make an appointment, send a direct message, shop on your website, or even download your app.

With so many options, you are likely to find a setup that best fits your practice and your patients. Remember, your neurology patients are already there. It’s time you join them.

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