Maintaining a social media presence can be a great way for practices to stay connected to existing patients and attract new ones. However, it's important to use social media in the right way. It's easy to make missteps on networking sites when first beginning to use them, but physician practices can rarely afford to do so. Instead, practices need to research social media best practices and apply them as soon as they open an account.

Create connections
According to Physicians Practice, it's useful to think of social networking online as essentially the same as networking in person. Just as networking involves interacting with many people, but one at a time, physician practices should use social media to create connections with other users. To do this, it's important not to post promotional statements over and over. Physicians Practice compares this to going into a crowded room and saying "check out my blog post," "big sale on supplements today" and "new allergy treatment available" repeatedly. Instead, physician practices need to connect with people. Posting open-ended questions to spark a discussion, for example, may be a good strategy. Candid pictures of practice employees – taken with permission, of course, and with nothing to compromise patient privacy – can also help build rapport.

Use social media for community outreach
Community outreach is vital in today's medical landscape. Patients no longer simply choose a doctor based on who takes their insurance, but research and select providers based on reviews, word of mouth and reputation. Having a presence in the community can draw in new patients, which will in turn bolster revenue cycle management. Prospective patients will be drawn to physicians who do respectable work in the community and show themselves to be thought leaders in this way.

Physicians who already do community outreach work can notify their social media followers of when they will be giving a talk or offering their expertise in other ways. It may also be worthwhile to share relevant news and studies in formats that patients can access and appreciate at their leisure. Links to blog posts don't need to be only to those a physician practice's employees have authored. There is also value in curating information for patients, who aren't likely to put in the time to find medical updates themselves.