by Jess Petro, Account Manager
While the pandemic has highlighted how misinformation on social media can impact the essential relationships between patients and their healthcare providers, the issue of trust goes much deeper than controversial Facebook memes. Vaccine hesitancy, distrust of pharmaceuticals, and the rising cost of care have all made medical care seem unappealing and unattainable to many people. With so much controversy swirling, how does a healthcare organization break through the noise and stay true to its mission?
At Issues Management Group, we have years of experience helping our clients build trust with their target audiences through proactive media relations and social media strategies. Here are a few helpful tips that will not only elevate your healthcare organization’s social media presence, but also help you cultivate better relationships with your patients.
Prioritize cultural competence and understanding.
A major part of building trust with patients, especially those in underserved communities, is acknowledging the root cause of the distrust that many people feel towards the healthcare industry and actively working to counteract it through culturally competent messaging. Accessibility issues, mistreatment, and discrimination are just some of the barriers that have kept patients from building trusting relationships with providers, both in the office and online. When drafting a social media strategy, consult those with an awareness of cultural considerations, such as: language barriers, religious beliefs, and traditions. Representation matters and can be an effective way to break down barriers.
Be responsive and maintain clear channels of communication.
People want to be heard and understood, especially when they are coming to their healthcare provider with sensitive questions. Frustration can ensue when a patient feels ignored, and being disengaged on social media can make your organization appear faceless and cold. To avoid this, prioritize thoughtfully engaging with patients online in a way that is authentic and true to your organization’s voice.
Educate, don’t shame.
Often, patients refuse to speak up and ask valuable questions out of the fear of being ridiculed or shamed. When attempting to dispel misinformation on social media, educate your audience while maintaining an empathetic and understanding tone. Avoid phrases that suggest the information being presented should be obvious and widely understood. Not everyone may be aware of how to spot trusted, reliable information sources.
Make information accessible.
Removing barriers to information, whether that be health research, your organization’s policies, or various messages from executive leadership, promotes transparency and can empower patients to commit further to their own health journeys. Patients may feel discouraged by information that is filled with jargon, hidden behind paywalls, or buried deep on a poorly labeled webpage. Creating content that is simple, free to read, and clearly linked can reduce feelings of intimidation or overwhelm. More often than not, the simplest message is the most effective.
Misinformation and distrust can be hard to combat, especially as we continue to navigate the pandemic and the ever-changing world of medicine. By staying true to your values, focusing on education, and welcoming productive dialogue, your organization can win your audience’s trust and improve your patients’ healthcare experiences.