This is the first in a series of 3 posts discussing the Return on Investment (ROI) of using social media in healthcare.
This post will focus on RETURN, the second post will focus on INVESTMENT and the third post will focus on how to design a MEASURABLE social media program.
What is ROI?
Many different equations exist for ROI, but we’re going to focus primarily on a commonly accepted definition that has been promoted by Chris Boyer in his recent “Social Media = ROI” presentation:http://slidesha.re/gejJM4
Chris defines ROI as:
In this case, ROI is simply the ratio of the net gain (Return from Investment – Cost of Investment) to the Cost of Investment.
What is “Return from Investment” or simply RETURN?
Define RETURN: Wikipedia defines RETURN as the “final value of an investment”.
In general, you could say that RETURN is getting ‘something’ out of the utilization of social media investment (or implementation) in healthcare.
What is that ‘something’? It really depends on what you want to get out of social media in healthcare – it depends on your objectives.
If you don’t know what your objectives are, then you need to take a step back to figure this out. Social media is not a tool that you deploy to see what happens. Social media is a tool that may be chosen if it matches the requirements of pre-determined objectives.
What are the Types of RETURN?
Start by defining your objectives:
- to increase your patient volume?
- to educate patients?
- to keep patients healthy? (like with the ACO model)
- to increase your reputation / brand?
- to increase your visibility in a certain region or specialty?
- to be an advocate for patients?
- to streamline your marketing efforts or your daily workflow?
- or, simply trying to appear as a ‘modern’ practice?
These are all valid objectives. Some may lead to others (i.e. trying to increase visibility in a certain region may lead to an increase in patients), but they are still considered valid.
Upon defining your objectives, you can identify your RETURN.
There are many different types of RETURN. Many would argue that they all lead to one type – theFinancial RETURN. Nonetheless, it may be prudent to measure ‘interim’ RETURNS as well. Some of the RETURNS from social media are:
- Financial / increased patients
- Increased efficiency / optimizing time
- Elevated brand / reputation
- Improved connection with patient communities
- Expanded patient education
- Expanded patient advocacy
Let’s look at these one at a time.
Financial / increased patients: This is the ultimate return. For most providers, the goal is to increase their patient volume.
Increased efficiency / optimizing time: For many practices, being able to do more in less time is an important measure. For example, the ability to spend less time and money on a specific marketing activity (like building relationships with PHP’s) has significant value.
Elevated brand / reputation: This typically leads to increased patients or general notoriety in your field so it’s an important measure of return.
Improved connection with patient communities: Another ‘return’ that can lead to increased patients or to education/advocacy. Social Media provide a great channel to ‘connect’ with patients.
Expanded patient education: Patients are going online for healthcare information. Unfortunately, there is a lot of inaccurate information ‘out there’. Social Media provides a good channel to share your ‘accurate’ information.
Expanded patient advocacy: Patients want to feel like they're not alone with their disease. Support groups were historically face-to-face, local meetings. There has been a recent transition to online support groups, website forums and chats.
How can Social Media provide this RETURN?
- Referrals from existing patients. Sometimes referred to as the ‘digital word of mouth’, Social Media provides numerous tools allowing satisfied patients a quick and easy way to ‘spread the word’ about your exceptional care.
- Referrals from other physicians. Depending on your area of expertise, referrals from other physicians may be critical. Social Media tools provide another channel to connect and build relationships with ‘referring’ physicians.
- Visibility to patients looking for a new provider. Depending on the survey cited, a significant number of Americans are going online to research healthcare providers. Being visible to the researching patient is critical in ‘getting found’.
- More direct connection with your patient community. This is something that is not possible with traditional media.
So, is there a positive RETURN? – Let’s look at the data that we have – it makes sense
*Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, Pew Research Center (http://pewinternet.org)
**The Intuit Health Second Annual Health Care Check-Up Survey, compiled by Decipher Research for Intuit Health in January 2011.
Doctors who have integrated social media into their online presence are seeing amazing returns. Here are just a couple of examples:
Many other examples exist. The recurring message that we hear is: “Social Media helps practices grow their patient volume at a reduced cost.”
As more practices “get engaged” it will become evident that there IS tremendous ROI with Social Media in healthcare.
In the meantime…
WHY AREN’T MORE PRACTICES PARTICIPATING IN SOCIAL NETWORKS?
Physicians need more data.
We love to make informed decisions.
You may be asking …
- How much time does it take?
- How do I get engaged? How do I participate in social networks?
- How do I maintain patient privacy?
- How do I maintain HIPAA compliance but connect with my patients?
- Where should I be engaged? Facebook? Twitter? Others?
- What works best for practices like mine?
The answers are out there.
What is your experience?
If you are seeking the answers to these questions, become part of the solution - take our survey – and benefit from the resulting case studies and “best practices”.
Also, stay tuned for posts 2 and 3 in this series focused on INVESTMENT and designing a MEASURABLE social media program. (subscribe to updates on the right hand side of the page)