Hospital social media strategies grow up

Not so long ago, hospitals dismissed Twitter and other forms of social media as a fad. But as the social media network celebrates its sixth birthday, hospitals' attitudes toward--and strategies for using--networking sites appear to be growing up, too.

More than 1,200 hospitals have a social media presence, according to Ed Bennett, web operations manager at University of Maryland Medical Center, who's been keeping a hospital social network list since the list included only a dozen or so hospital names. And no doubt that number will rise when he next updates the list.

But from the start, hospital execs questioned whether there was a quantifiable return on investment and whether social media could ever help them achieve to their organization's strategic goals.

There are no easy answers to that question, but the healthcare industry continues to work on it. And some are making progress.

As FierceHealthIT reported earlier this week, Children's Medical Center Dallas uses Twitter and other social media sites to create a patient- and family-centric environment. But the hospital's online and social media strategy isn't just a nice-to-have, said Christopher Durovich, president and CEO. It bolsters one of the organization's five strategic objectives--to provide safe, quality care and excellent service.    

And Chris Boyer, director of digital marketing and communications at Inova Health System, says he's seen some financial returns on Twitter activity, according to an interview with The Daily Briefing, an online publication of The Advisory Board.

For example, following an Inova Health lecture about back pain, which was simulcast online and tweeted live, at least one person who was following the event on Twitter and asking questions in 140 characters or fewer ended up as an Inova patient within six months.

"Boyer notes that Inova's fixed cost of video streaming and live-tweeting the event was about $2,000; adding one neck surgery patient was worth about $20,000," Daily Briefing editor Dan Diamond writes.

The article, which includes interviews with a number of healthcare social media experts, also offers advice to make the most of Twitter and how to hone your social media strategy and explains how social tools can increase engagement and bolster accountable care efforts.

To learn more:
- read the Daily Briefing article
- check out Ed Bennett's hospital social network list

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