Use Social Media Platforms for Patient Engagement

By Lynn Steffes, PT, DPT

Why should you have an automated marketing platform and strategy for patient engagement?

According to Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) statistics from 2009 to 2016,1 there has been a mass exodus of physicians from private practice to hospital- and system-based settings. For example:

  • Internal medicine went from 50 percent hospital and system employed to nearly 70 percent
  • Orthopedic surgeons from mid-20 percent to mid-40 percent
  • Pediatricians from just about 30 percent to more than 50 percent

It is common knowledge that in a growing number of markets physician referrals to private practices and access to marketing opportunities with physicians have dropped substantially. Practices that once had a lengthy list of loyal referring physicians are seeing their stream of new MD-referred patients dwindling. The question is not only how to find new patients but also how to nurture your current clientele to ensure that your prior patients return to your practice for additional care or refer their family and friends as well!

The answer is to develop a consistent, ongoing patient engagement tool and strategy!

Many practices are utilizing social media platforms to stay in touch with their client base and to reach other consumers. However, we are also seeing practices all across the country looking for opportunities to create ways to better engage individually with past, present, and potential patients, nurturing them through the entire physical therapy experience from intake to discharge. Practices are working on educating patients, and even engaging their family caregivers, to improve the overall quality of their experience. These practices are exploring marketing automation and engagement technologies. When employed strategically, this action yields a wide range of benefits, including a more efficient, consumer-friendly intake process, better carryover compliance, increased attendance and completion of care, as well as long-term connections and word-of-mouth referrals!

In a recent discussion with Carol Vance, a patient engagement platform developer, Vance described important factors in patient engagement.

  • Provide relevant content and messaging. Identify and deliver to your individual customer. Profiling your customers at intake and using their demographic data to target your messaging is vital!
  • Build loyalty and advocacy over time, because happy customers drive referrals. This is true of any business model—business-to-business or business-to-consumer. Your customers are your prospects, too. In fact, research from Teradata shows that 61 percent of people say they would tell their friends and family about their good experiences and that 27 percent would sign up for a company’s loyalty program.2
  • Engage customers continuously over time—with messages and content relevant to their situation that drives them toward a desired action or outcome. Being mindful of who your audience is and what resonates with them the most will help push them further along in the customer lifecycle.

With increasing copays and deductibles and busy schedules, patients’ attendance and completion of care has also become a challenge. Keep in mind that patients who fail to come to scheduled medical appointments (no-shows) create a cascade of issues for the health care system, the provider, and themselves. No-shows can affect productivity, cost and quality of care, and treatment outcomes.


1. Accessed November 2017.

2. Accessed November 2017.

steffes-lynn-2016 Lynn Steffes, PT, DPT, is president and consultant of Steffes & Associates, a national rehabilitation consulting group focused on marketing and program development for private practices nationwide. She is an instructor in five physical therapy programs and has actively presented, consulted, and taught in 40 states. She can be reached at

Copyright © 2017, Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. All Rights Reserved.

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