Savvy physicians know their reputation online is a significant factor in determining patient volume and satisfaction. These, in turn, have a huge impact on revenue cycle management and a practice's bottom line. However, knowing the facts and acting on them are different propositions, and many practices are far too busy to undertake an extensive social media campaign. There are steps practices can take that require a minimum investment of time but will bring a large return in terms of online presence. Facebook and Twitter are both useful tools, and many physician practices maintain profiles there. In addition, though, practices need to understand how to use LinkedIn and Google Places for business, according to the Medical Group Management Association blog.

How to use LinkedIn
LinkedIn is the largest professional networking site, but it's also an easy way to get a physician's own story about himself or herself into search results. It also provides discussion groups and industry analysis for physicians and other health care practitioners.

"Because of LinkedIn's professional context and relatively low barrier of entry, it is an ideal platform for providers who are hesitant to dip their toes in online waters," Kevin Pho, M.D., a practicing internal medicine physician and expert on health care social media, told the Medical Group Management Association. He recommends physicians spend 45 minutes developing a profile for the practice itself or one or more of the providers who work there.

It's best to focus on one part of the profile to completion, according to Pho. The summary is very important, as it is what users see first. It gives practices and providers an opportunity to make a statement to prospective patients. Profiles should also include the practice's location and how to contact it, which services it offers and information on the education and credentials of each provider at the practice. This can serve as a good introduction for prospective patients, and is in a format that is easy to take in.

All about Google Places
Google Places is not a social media site as such, but it's worth setting up an account on it regardless. This makes it easy for patients to find a practice using Google, and completing the listing can help a practice show up in a good spot in local or map searches for physicians. Signing up is easy, and Google will send a postcard for address verification. Thereafter, practices only need to follow the instructions on the postcard. It's easy to do and pays off in search engine rankings, which can help boost patient volume and a practice's online reputation all at once.