Hospital Impact: For healthcare leaders, it pays to have a high social media IQ

Social media
For healthcare leaders, social media is a great opportunity to positively promote your facility to hundreds of thousands of people. However, don’t ever get trapped into violating HIPAA on the web.
headshot of Raymond Hino

Earlier this month, I reached my 4,000th connection on LinkedIn. That does not make me an expert on social media. However, it does serve as an indicator of my status of being somewhat knowledgeable of the social media space. I have successfully used my web presence to keep in touch with colleagues, network extensively and extend my reach, professionally, well beyond the four walls of our facility. I have also used it on a regular basis to positively promote the hospitals and healthcare facilities that I have been responsible for.

For years, I have been encouraging hospital and healthcare leaders to have a very high social media IQ in order to excel and flourish in today’s volatile world. I recommend that hospitals and healthcare organizations maintain an active presence on, at least, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Yelp. All four of these sites are an open invitation for people, active on the web, to form opinions about your organization and potentially to serve as your best marketers, or worst detractors.

Here is an example of a reason why. I have personally served as an administrator of the Facebook page at four facilities that I have led. This allows me to have very quick access to any content that is written about my facility on the Facebook site. I still recall a time, once, when I received notification that a Facebook user had signed into Facebook and announced that they were being seen as a patient at our facility that very day. I went online and looked up the notification and noted that the patient wrote something that made me uncomfortable.

Later that day, I spoke to the patient’s physician and informed him about the Facebook posting. The physician later probed the patient, without revealing that he was aware of the posting, to determine if there were any concerns that had not been verbalized. The patient reassured the physician that was not the case. Later, I noticed that the patient had added loud praise for both the physician and our facility on that Facebook page. I was delighted, of course, that this patient had a good experience and even happier that the patient shared a positive experience on the web.

I realize that busy healthcare executives often do not have the time to monitor all of their organization’s social content. But it is important that someone, preferably with leadership awareness, is keeping current on your presence on the web and keeping you informed. Interventions on the web can be made as necessary.

Here are some things to be aware of and remember when you are establishing your social media policy. This is a great opportunity to positively promote your facility to hundreds of thousands of people. However, don’t ever get trapped into violating HIPAA on the web. That means no posting of patient photos or identifying information, or even information that can inadvertently identify a patient. Also, don’t ever respond to healthcare questions posed on social media. That type of information is best left to sites such as WebMD that specialize in providing medical information. Keep the content positive.

Also, be sure and use the web to keep yourself informed and an active participant in the healthcare industry. It will pay immeasurable dividends.

Raymond Hino is an administrator at Skyway Surgery Center in Chico, California. He was previously the president and CEO of the Sonoma West Medical Center.