Social Media Vital in Marketing Large Urology Practices

Beth Fand Incollingo @fandincollingo
Published: Sunday, May 18, 2014


Peter M. Knapp, Jr, MD

In the age of social media, simply having a website isn’t enough.

To keep existing patients and attract new ones, large urology group practices need to build websites that are connected to social media outlets at every turn, said Peter M. Knapp, Jr, MD, president of Urology of Indiana, during a talk Friday at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Urological Association in Orlando, Florida.

Urology of Indiana includes 30 urologists and five urogynecologists who, together, log more than 100,000 patient visits per year. The group is located in 17 offices across central Indiana and serves 18 hospitals.

“Our group is very wide and diverse geographically,” Knapp said, “but also goes very deep in urology with subspecialty services, which created some unique challenges for us in how to promote and position ourselves online.”

One thing was certain: Partners agreed that their previous website needed to be modernized. They sought help from a marketing company specializing in social media, and the results can serve as a model for other urology groups, said Knapp, who spoke during a program organized by the Society of University Urologists and the Society for Urology Chairpersons and Program Directors.

“We needed a website that was more clear and focused in its navigational structure, included more visual storytelling and modern coding to connect it to social media channels, and was mobile [phone]-friendly,” he said. “Thirty percent of people who own cell phones are looking for health information on their mobile devices, so our site needed to work well on cell phones.”

The company that helped shape the site was Social Spotlight Media, founded by the doctor’s daughter, Laura Knapp; she spoke about the “do’s and don’ts” of social media in medicine/urology during the program.

Knapp said the firm taught his practice to use a “push/pull” strategy to communicate with the public, with the website as its centerpiece.

The “push” part of the strategy involves encouraging established patients to visit the site to view physician profiles, clinical content, subspecialty services, and patient education tools, ideally moving on to the practice’s Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google Plus, and/or Twitter pages from there.

The “pull” part of the plan entails grabbing the attention of potential new patients and caregivers who are searching online for doctors or information about medical conditions, Knapp said. If a patient finds Urology of Indiana’s educational videos about diagnosis and management of specific conditions on YouTube, for example, he will also find a link to the practice’s website, where he can learn about its services and physicians and click to make an appointment and even to receive the group’s newsletter.

Clearly, Knapp said, the changes to the practice’s website have made it more of a two-way street.

“Our old website was heavy on clinical content…and had our toll-free phone number for people to call, but there was no way for a patient to interact with us,” he said. While the site still includes the phone number, it now also offers detailed and categorized information on the conditions the practice treats and on every doctor in the group, along with their specialties and locations, and an opportunity to request appointments with them that will be confirmed within 24 hours. Visitors can also share pages of the website with others through Facebook and other channels, Knapp said.

The doctor gave special attention to YouTube during his talk, saying the site is particularly useful as a marketing tool.

“We’ve learned a lot using YouTube, which is the second most-active search engine,” he said. “We’ve also learned from Social Spotlight Media that patients are two times more likely to visit your website after viewing a video, so it’s an excellent way for them to get to your website, and they’re more likely to do it there than they are through a Google search. The other thing that we’ve recognized and appreciated is that video life is infinite. Videos we put on several years ago are still there, and our old content generates over 500 views a month and increases our search engine optimization.”

Once medical practices have interactive websites set up, there are some principles they should abide by, Laura Knapp explained.

“Do’s” include having a social media strategy in place, creating sharable content, listening and responding to visitors’ questions, and figuring out what type of content resonates with patients.

Among the “don’ts” are violating HIPAA rules, ignoring patients who are responding to the practice’s online presence with either positive or negative feedback, paying people to become online followers, being overly promotional, and being argumentative or rude.

Knapp encouraged his peers to get their practices more engaged with social media.

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