Hospitals don't make best use of social media

Most hospitals that use social media aren't putting patients first, according to a new study.

The study, conducted by Professors Amalia Miller of the University of Virginia and Catherine Tucker of the MIT Sloan School of Management, found only about a quarter of Facebook posts by hospitals emphasize patient issues. As a result, most engagement in such settings was with hospital employees rather than patients.

While the researchers said the employee-based engagement isn't bad if it increases interaction between the hospital and its employees, they couldn't find evidence that this was a more effective motivational tool than "more traditional methods of internal firm communication such as email."

Social media engagement, the report said, is typically considered a function of marketing, rather than human resources and the goal for most healthcare organizations is to improve communication with patients when they start to participate actively on social media. Yet most of the hospital postings are devoted to generic observations or employee-related issues and achievements, defeating the purpose of the platforms.

"If firms wish to use social media primarily for client-facing reasons," the authors said, "their efforts may be more effective if they ensure that any content posted is specifically focused around their clients' needs and interests rather than being of broader organizational interest."

The study further found that active management of Facebook pages occurs at 18 percent of hospitals. Employee-targeted posts focused primarily on awards, employee activities and benefits, whereas patient-targeted content mostly related to promoting hospital initiatives and health tips.

Despite the study findings, some hospitals are making a concerted effort to include patients in their social media efforts and are seeking input from patients on how they can improve care. As FierceHealthcare previously reported, hospitals are using Facebook and Twitter to recruit patients and their families to serve as advisors, asking their opinions via questionnaires and surveys on planned improvements in care, new services and even facility names.

To learn more:
- here's the study