How to Create a Facebook Support Group for Your Patients

There’s no doubt about it. With over one billion active users, Facebook is one of the most popular destinations on the internet. If you’re reading this, you probably have a Facebook account. These days, your feed is likely filled with photos of friends, political rants, links to stories in the news, and conversations between friends and family. Sometimes it gets so crowded that it can be hard to find information you’re looking for or to connect with like-minded people. One of the ways to overcome this is by joining Facebook groups.

Facebook groups are usually organized around a theme, cause, or interest. They can be private or public, and members join because they want to discuss something specific. There are groups for everything you can think about, from finances to fitness to food. Many medical practices are beginning to create Facebook groups for their patients, which is a good way to help patients connect with one another and share information and resources about their diseases.

If you’d like to create a Facebook group for your practice, there are several things you should consider before diving in.

  1. Make your group private.
    This will protect the identity of your members and allow them to be more open. When you create your group, choose the setting that allows you the best level of privacy. Your choices are public (in which anyone can join and see what others have posted), closed (in which people must ask to join and can only see posts once they’re approved) and secret (in which members must be added by an administrator and the group does not show up in searches).
  2. Invite patients to your group.
    Advertise your group as a resource for your patients and invite them to join. They’ll be able to post, ask questions, and talk to one another about local issues and events. Your staff can also join the group and easily answer questions about the office, available appointment times, and other general issues.
  3. Share helpful information.
    The group is a natural place to share general information, such as articles about living with rheumatology, new treatments that may be available, changes to your practice’s hours of operation, and new patient forms. Staff can also start conversations with general questions, such as “What is one thing you look forward to each spring?” or “What’s the best natural remedy you’ve found for your arthritis?”
  4. Be careful about HIPPA violations!
    If someone in your group asks a specific question about their treatment, their medical history, or offers up someone else’s personal information, you must delete their comment immediately and send them a private message inviting them to your practice to discuss their questions in person. This will help ensure that you do not violate HIPAA. To keep these things from happening, you should have a staff member monitor the group several times a day and educate members on what is and isn’t appropriate to post. Write up a rules document and “pin” it to the top of the group, so it’s the first thing members see when they join. This will help keep your patients and their information safe, while at the same time fostering a sense of community and belonging.

Have you used Facebook groups within your practice? Do you have questions about anything we covered in this post, or advice to share? If so, head over to our Facebook page and keep the conversation going!

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