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How to Leverage Social Media for Patient Engagement and Outreach

Sydnee Silverberg Field Marketing Specialist
How to Leverage Social Media for Patient Engagement and Outreach

Social media isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of your healthcare provider. But with the average American spending 147 minutes on social media daily, it is quickly becoming one of the most powerful communication tools in a healthcare system’s arsenal. 

Social media has revolutionized how we share information across the globe, enabling us to connect and communicate in ways never before possible and at a velocity never before imagined.

And this is true of healthcare too. In the age of digital health, social media is a potent mechanism for patient outreach and engagement. A JMIR study found that 90% of older adults accessed popular social media platforms to find and share health information. And another report found that 90% of younger people (18-24) trusted health information shared on social media. 

With so many healthcare providers adopting a digital front-door strategy, the question remains: how does social media fit in? And how can you utilize social media to keep your patients engaged and connected with your health system?

Let’s get into it. 

How to Leverage Social Media in Healthcare

Seemingly every day, we see headlines about the latest innovations in healthcare. In 2022 alone, we saw next-generation mRNA vaccinology, novel drug treatments for type 2 diabetes, a breakthrough treatment for postpartum depression, and much more.


While undoubtedly impressive, some of the most impactful innovations in healthcare lie in how we improve the basics—patient outreach and engagement. 

We can only help people who know we exist and can only offer help if people know what help is available to them and where to find it.

And today, social media is the primary way of reaching people—everyone’s on social media, and if they’re not, their friends and family are. But how should you maximize its potential? 

Raising Awareness

Whether emphasizing the importance of common-sense health practices or planning seasonal campaigns, social media can serve as a robust platform for raising the profile of illnesses, trends, and other health matters. 


Social media played a pivotal role in spreading the latest and most accurate health advice during the COVID-19 pandemic. Targeted social media campaigns detailed what people should do when they experience mild symptoms (isolate) and when it is necessary to seek medical attention. 


This was especially crucial at a time when healthcare organizations struggled to keep non-critical cases away from over-capacitated hospitals. 

Combatting Misinformation

Fake news travels fast and, before you know it, becomes a dangerous truth.


Health misinformation caused incredible harm during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Vaccines cause infertility,” “vaccines cause autism,” “Ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine are effective against COVID-19”;  are just a few examples of the kind of misinformation that was spread (naively or maliciously) through the height of the pandemic. 


As trusted members of the community, you can leverage social media platforms to combat dangerous misinformation before it has the chance to take hold. 

South Africa’s Western Cape Health Fought Covid-19 Misinformation Via Twitter In April 2020

Patient Engagement

Social media can be a valuable channel to reach new patients or engage with existing patients on sensitive topics. 


Many people feel anxious about visiting doctors, especially for delicate topics such as mental health. But social media campaigns can help them realize they’re not alone—that many others face the same struggles and that help is available. This, in turn, is driving people to seek a closer relationship with their healthcare providers. 


Patients are more invested than ever in managing their health through wearable tech like the Apple Watch, and this sense of control encourages them to seek out relevant health information they can use to better themselves.


The more informed people become about their health, the more they expect their healthcare providers to actively support them in achieving their wellness goals.


Social media is an excellent way of cultivating a relationship with your patients that far extends their visits to your facilities and helps weave you into their daily routines.

Attracting Highly-Skilled Talent

Not directly related to patient engagement and outreach but crucial nonetheless.

Highlighting your success, commitment to serving your patients, and duty to protect the public can help attract new medical professionals at the top in their field. And when you have the best talent available, you foster excellent patient experiences. 

Healthcare Social Media: Real-World Examples

Time for some inspiration. 


Let’s take stock of what healthcare social media excellence looks like in action:


Novant Health

Novant Health has a robust social media presence that bolsters and supports its industry-leading marketing and communications efforts, which include a multi-year sponsorship of local NBA team, the Charlotte Hornets, and a long-lasting relationship with one of the world’s most venerated athletes Michael Jordan. 

Michael Jordan At The Inaugural Ceremony Of The Novant Health Michael Jordan Family Medical Clinic

Novant Health has more than 170,000 followers across its social media platforms, with LinkedIn and Facebook contributing the lion’s share of a following usually reserved for retail brands.


Novant actively maintains, posts, and engages its community on no less than seven different social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, and LinkedIn) and even runs a Pinterest account dedicated to health and wellness tips.  

UW Medicine 


#1 rated hospital in Washington by US News & World Report, UW Medicine boasts a staggering 160,000 followers across five social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram).


With a production rate that matches full-fledged media companies, UW Medicine publishes new videos daily to its award-winning YouTube show “The Newsroom,” which covers a broad spectrum of urgent topics such as new local health regulations, emerging risks, and easy-to-consume health-related educational content.

Montefiore Health System


With almost a quarter of a million followers on social media, New York’s Montefiore Health System’s digital presence and engagement with its community is as far-reaching as it is effective. 


Blending healthcare insights with flashy and current marketing stunts—for example employing the services of Mexican rock star Pilo Gomez to tell the story of one of their cancer patients—Montefiore’s approach to social media demonstrates a deep cultural understanding of their patient communities.


More than anything else, Montefiore proves that healthcare doesn’t have to equate to boring or sterile. And in the case of their Christmas 2022 video that garnered more than 10 million views and comments like “This commercial is a work of art” and “I have to fight back tears every time I watch this,” Montefiore Health System actually makes the case that at its best healthcare can be a pretty magical thing. 

The Dangers of Social Media in Healthcare

Overall, social media is an excellent medium for sharing information, but it is vital for you to be aware of the potential risks. 


Crucially, it can be difficult to control how information is shared, as well as how it is interpreted. This means healthcare providers need to think carefully about how they craft their content. For example, one poorly phrased blog title could heighten patient anxieties and travel around the web before you’ve had the chance to finish your coffee. 


And then we have false information. It’s no surprise that false information is a popular topic—in fact, in 2018, 70% of the top health stories shared were inaccurate or misleading! But healthcare providers can fight back against the spread of misinformation. 


Above all, providers should make sure that the information they share is trustworthy, reliable, and backed by scientific evidence. That way, you can help your patient population make informed decisions about their health.


Lastly, one of the main dangers of social media in healthcare is the potential for the unauthorized sharing of patient information.


HIPAA legally binds healthcare providers to keep patient information private, but social media makes it easier for unauthorized parties to access this information. This can lead to serious privacy breaches, which can be damaging not only to the patient but to the healthcare provider as well. Of course, conscientious healthcare providers are unlikely to fall into this trap, but it’s essential always to be mindful of the type of information you share. 

Wrapping Up

Here’s the bottom line—if you’re not already leveraging social media for patient engagement and outreach, you should start today. Share meaningful content and establish an engaged online audience of new and existing patients. 


Social media was meant to bring us closer together, but it feels as if we’re growing further apart and losing touch with our communities. As a healthcare provider, you can rekindle the trust and generosity that made social media so compelling in the first place. Use your authority to build truly beneficial and lasting experiences for your patients and everyone else online. 

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About the author
Sydnee Silverberg Field Marketing Specialist