Part 3 of 5
Security risks, privacy concerns, possible HIPAA violations… its easy to see why health care organizations might be frightened by social media. Then, there are those who just wonder if it is all a waste of time and resources.
In spite of these concerns, the number of hospitals and healthcare entities with an online social media presence is growing by leaps and bounds. In May 2010, an estimated 730 hospitals had social media accounts—compared to 370 eight months ago. Chris Boyer, Senior Manager of Digital Communications at Inova Health Systems says, “Social media is a way to develop mindshare. People don’t think about hospitals until they need one. Social media efforts get them to start caring and helps to build trust and to develop a personal relationship.” (Seegert 2010)
The rise of so-called “e-Patients” creates many opportunities for engagement. e-Patients are defined as those “who are equipped, enabled, empowered and engaged in their health and health care decisions” (Sharp 2010). E-Patients believe informed self-care is the starting point for good health, and want to be actively involved with doctors and medical centers in shaping health information and services. Many e-Patients are recording their medical conditions online in an effort to track and self-diagnose themselves, within online medical communities such as patientslikeme.com or curetogether.com.
“Social media is here to stay in health care, but it will evolve quickly.” says John Sharp, manager of Research Informatics in the Department of Quantitative Health Sciences at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. He believes that patient engagement will continue to characterize this change. Customer service, community outreach, education, public relations, crisis communications, recruitment, brand monitoring and service recovery are just a few of the areas that can be addressed by a social media campaign.
The North Shore LIJ Health System (NSLIJ), one of the country’s largest healthcare providers, has had great success using social media to drive fundraising. Donors can text pledges to the foundation via cell phone, or click through from inspirational YouTube videos. Marisa Fedele, associate director of communications for NSLIJ, says her only regret is not integrating social media into the mix sooner.
The bottom line? There are a lot of patients out there looking for information and an opportunity to connect with their health care organizations. Reaching out to them will not only improve communication, it will help build trust and brand recognition. Just make sure you have a social media plan in place to guide the content and quality of information published under your brand’s name, and integrate the effort with other more traditional media for consistent communication.
Sharp, John. “Social Media in Health Care: Barriers and Future Trends.” iHealthBeat. 6 May 2010.
Seegert, Liz. “Hospitals gain community mindshare through social media.” ThinkSocial 11 May 2010.