Hospitals may have been slow to use social media platforms but many are finally taking advantage of all they have to offer and seeking input from patients on how they can improve care and services, reported the Wall Street Journal.
The article cites examples of hospitals across the country turning to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest to recruit patients and their families to serve as advisors, asking for their opinions via questionnaires and surveys on planned improvements in care, new services and even facility names.
Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del., for example, has set up a "virtual advisory council" on a private social network, so it can ask parents to voice opinions and advice regarding appointment scheduling, doctors' bedside manners and other hospital concerns, according to WSJ.
Similarly, the University of Michigan Health System, which encompasses three hospitals, 40 outpatient locations and more than 120 clinics throughout Michigan and northern Ohio, relies on "e-advisors" to answer approximately 35 online surveys a year, and a teen council communicates by responding to questions via its own Facebook page.
Concord (N.H.) Hospital, which includes 295 licensed beds and 238 staffed beds, is using social media to develop meaningful, two-way conversations and, in turn, build brand awareness and customer loyalty, according to the Concord Monitor. And Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, an academic medical center also located in New Hampshire, has hired a full-time social media coordinator to reach out to patients and their families.
These endeavors, while helpful on a local level, are part of a larger movement from the federal Medicare program to use patient satisfaction surveys, including questions on the hospital's responsiveness to concerns, to determine hospital payments.
According to a guide recently released by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), patient engagement, including the incorporation of the patient's perspective into the planning, delivery and evaluation of healthcare services, is essential to eliminate communication gaps. Furthermore, AHRQ instructs hospitals to form patient-family advisory councils. The idea behind this recommendation is that getting to know patients facilitates focusing on the aspects of the hospital experience that mean the most to the patients.
Instead of having to recruit patients and family members to advise on services and facilities at the institutions, through social media, hospitals can obtain input from patients and families more efficiently. "The avenues through which patient voices can be captured and heard are expanding in rapid and creative ways," said Jason Wolf, president of the Beryl Institute, a membership organization providing grants and resources to help hospitals improve patient satisfaction, to the WSJ.
But Roddy Young, Dartmouth-Hitchcock's vice president for communications and marketing, said not all social media interactions are positive, reported Concord Monitor. Patients sometimes change their opinions from one day to the next, and often use the platform to voice complaints.