E-Patients Drive the Need for Social Media in Health Care
These days, social media expectations are high among customers of businesses of all kinds. This extends absolutely to health care, as a generation of patients having grown up with social engagement expect it from everywhere. Health care practices and hospitals are businesses, so it makes business sense for them to design a social media policy and adhere to it. The expectations of e-patients and the use of patient-focused social media has driven the need for organizations to maintain a quality social presence online.
Social media needs to be planned, cultivated and nutured. Be sure to designate staff or consultants to accomplish the goals you set and be consistent. Your well-designed and maintained social media policy could help to protect your organization from HIPPA compliance errors on social media. Leaving social media updates and content creation to the winds is the wrong way to make an impact with your patients, or the public, to say nothing of your bottom line.
According to a recent study sponsored by the Ohio Hospital Association, 90% of local hospitals who participated in their A Healthy Dose of Social Media study reported using social media. 88% reported that Facebook was their first or second most popular choice. YouTube garnered 69% of the votes for second choice and Twitter came in at 49% for a primary or secondary choice. These three applications have a very low barrier to entry and can be created and maintained by one or many people in your organization or outside consultants. But don't take that barrier to entry as an assumption that social media policy and practice is easy - that's a pathway to disaster.
One Big List Of Health Care Social Media Examples
Institutions: the Mayo Clinic's Social Media Health Network is comprised of a list of health organizations across the country and their social media usage. Once again, Facebook wins as the application of choice for most health organizations.
Terminology: The term using social media can mean a lot of things today. The most used social media applications and reasons for adopting them are:
- Facebook-creating and curating an organizational page to establish your presence in the market and to connect with patients, the public, donors and suppliers
- Twitter-establishing and maintaining a channel and following other practices, hospitals, innovators, medical device suppliers, legislators etc.
- Blogging-consistently sharing insights about industry or practice specific educational or newsworthy material to engage patients. Consistently adding content will raise your profile on Google so people can find your organization immediately in a search
- Pinterest-post relevant bits of information such as recipes for diabetic patients, the latest technology for geriatric patients, information about your patient portal, Affordable Care Act updates etc.
- LinkedIn- an organization page for the professionals in your organization to network with other professionals and talent acquisition. Encourage your staff to create their own profiles and link to your account
- YouTube-creating videos for teaching and establishing a presence in the community. This content could be used to educate patients
- Podcasts or webinars-offer free or paid educational materials
All of these and more social media applications can help build your organization's brand, drive traffic back to your main website, provide patient support groups, educate staff, increase donations and bolster the reputation of your organization and the administrators, doctors, nurses and clinicians within your organization.
What's The Trend?
According to the Ohio Hospital Organization study, the investment by their participating organizations will grow this year. I can see it growing past use of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube into adopting more time-consuming tasks like blogging. Blogs allow doctors, nurses, clinicians and health administrators to share their message and promote their medical perspectives deeply and affectively, improving patient education and engagement. A blog post allows the writer to share details, methods and reasons for applying x or y treatment for a condition. The incorporation of their blog posts into the overall social media campaign is going to bolster the quality of the content the organization is offering and help to raise the Google rank and overall findability of the organization's web site. Google loves fresh content, and whatever Google loves gets traffic, so consistently updating your blog will help Google recognize your organization and allow new patients and all to find you within the first page of a search.
Image courtesy of: http://www.ncats.nih.gov/