When I speak about the use of social media in healthcare, physicians often tell me they fear that patients will leave negative reviews or comments about them online. It is certainly understandable. That nasty comment might be unfair and not representative of how most patients feel. And you have little ability to change or remove it.

Unfortunately not participating in Twitter or Facebook or maintaining your own website won’t prevent an angry patient from posting that unfavorable mention of you online. Your absence just makes it unlikely you will see it.

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Patients leaving negative reviews online

There are many places that patients can vent their frustration. Obviously the sites that collect reviews of physicians, like HealthGrades, are well-known. Patients can also leave comments on Google reviews, Angie’s List and other sites. Most often, though, they will complain on their own Facebook or Twitter accounts.

One benefit of being active in social media is that patients can leave their comments on your site. If you have a blog, a patient might complain about your rude receptionist there. She might complain about waiting 90 minutes to see you on your Facebook page.

Those scenarios might sound bad, but at least you get to see those comments.

Opportunity to listen and respond

Social media offers you the opportunity to see what people are saying about you. Better yet, it gives you the opportunity to respond. You might see the negative comment about the rude treatment your patient received from your front desk. You can reply to her that you apologize and will speak to your staff. You might also create a favorable impression among others who could choose to see you in the future.

Using social media to monitor and improve customer service is a common strategy used by some large companies, such as Delta monitoring complaints on Twitter (see screenshots). It will become increasingly important in healthcare.
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Doctors especially must remember one important point, however. People are using mobile devices to communicate on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites more than ever. For example, as of December 2013, 556 million people use Facebook on mobile devices daily. 76% of Twitter monthly active users access it via mobile devices.

As such, people can tweet or post complaints on those sites in a matter of seconds. If you routinely run hours behind in clinic or are unfriendly with patients, no amount of social media monitoring will help you.