Five Ways to Use Social Media in Your Practice

Here are five simple ways to use social media to help your practice:

  1. Develop your social media pages.  Consider starting a page for your practice on Facebook, LinkedIn, and/or Twitter.  Persuade your patients to “like” your practice’s Facebook page – your postings will then be featured in their news feeds.
  2. Send health-related updates.  Send e-newsletters with short reminders or news stories of interest to your patient population.  Patients will appreciate brief tips provided at no cost.
  3.  Take advantage of online networking.  Many people meet potential employers and employees on career-centered social networking sites such as LinkedIn.   Join a discussion group with similar interests and goals.
  4.  Launch a blog.  A blog is an efficient way to provide information to your patients and the online community and another way to promote your practice. 
  5.  Post general information.  Tell us about who you are and what your practice does.

Remember to always use caution and comply with all applicable privacy and confidentiality rules when using social media sites, as well as any other media outlet.

© 2011 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

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Stop and Think Before Using Groupon to Promote Physician Services

The internet has vastly improved our ability to find great bargains.  Many people subscribe to sites like Groupon, Living Social, and others that offer discount goods and services. Over the past several years, there has been a notable rise in the number of promotions related to cosmetic services and products.

Is this a good thing for health care providers?

Before a physician or other health care provider decides to offer a Groupon special, you must consider the federal and state rules and regulations governing physician practices, marketing and referrals.  Internet deals are NO exception to the rules.

It is important to think about the following when entertaining the thought of online marketing: 

  • Fee-splitting: Fee-splitting laws vary by state, but most states do not allow licensed physicians to divide physician revenue in exchange for referrals. Physician revenue is typically revenue from services that can only be sold by a licensed physician. Most social media sites charge a percentage of the income generated on each “deal” that is sold. The sites may accept the payment from the patient rather than the physician, but the fee still represents a portion of the fee that the physician would have generated for his or her “professional” service.
  • Anti-Kickback Statute: The federal Anti-Kickback statute prohibits the payment of remuneration, or “kickbacks”, in exchange for referrals.  This includes both direct and indirect remuneration. 

Most of the services sold on Groupon are not covered by Medicare, so the Anti-Kickback statute would not apply in such instances.  Still, many states have similar statutes that apply to situations where other insurance or out-of-pocket payments are involved.  Nebraska does not have an Anti-Kickback statute that mirrors the federal statute.

Currently, there is no formal AMA opinion, case law, or other guidance on these issues.  The use of social media sites for promoting one’s practice may be a great tool in an era of technology, but proceed with caution and make sure to comply with all applicable laws before launching any web-based discounts.

© 2011 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

For more information, contact

Physicians: Exercise Caution When Using Social Media

When a physician accesses social media – whether it be LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or another social media site – it is very important to be honest, respect privacy, and uphold the reputation of the medical profession.  It is also important to seriously consider separating one’s professional use of social media from one’s personal use.

Physicians must be aware of what is being posted online and how it is presented, given the ever-increasing use of social networking and blogs.  Physician employers should also be aware of what their employees are posting online, both professionally and personally.  Many employers in the health care field have established social media policies to govern the use of social media both during and after work hours.  

Additionally, physicians need to take into account the use of online rating sites and search engines by patients.  How can these sites affect a physician and his or her practice?  Physicians should work to understand, manage and proactively review their online identity and personal brand.

A smart strategy for physicians is to consider all postings – whether professional or personal – as public.  Examine privacy settings closely.

Finally, in the event that a physician communicates directly with patients electronically, it is crucial to do so via secure messaging, have a physician-patient communications policy in place, and comply with the rules of such policy.

Source: Rajecki, Ron. “Be Careful When Using Social Media.” Medical Economics. 12 May 2011.

© 2011 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

  For more information, contact