Mayo Clinic aims to accelerate online presence with new social media center

As readers of FierceHealthcare and its related publications well know, despite a notion by some that combining social media and healthcare is a dangerous mix, more and more health professionals appear to be taking the leap into the online world. From Facebook fan pages for practices to social networks like Ozmosis for physicians, the future is definitely now. 

So it should come as no surprise that Mayo Clinic--with its 60,000 followers on Twitter, its medical provider channel on YouTube and its several successful blogs--is launching a Center for Social Media to "accelerate effective application of social media tools" within its own facilities, as well as to help other facilities in their efforts to connect patients and doctors online. 

As Mayo's press release announcing the center points out, less than 800 of the roughly 5,000 hospitals throughout the U.S. even have a social networking presence, according to Found in Cache blog author Ed Bennett. "This is building on the interest that we've already had," Lee Aase, manager of syndications and social media at Mayo, told the Wall Street Journal Health Blog. "There is immense interest from clinical departments--they want to be able to harness these tools to do their business." 

The center will be run by about eight people and will receive $800,000 in annual funding to start, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Aase points out that while Mayo will charge other hospitals for consulting and giving out advice, the primary goal is to improve social media use within its own walls. 

"The real focus is looking for ways to increase the use of social media throughout the practice at Mayo," Aase told the Journal. "To provide in-depth information for patients in a much more comprehensive way, and to create connections between researchers, physicians and staff." 

Among the many other healthcare organizations to embrace social media is Providence, R.I.-based Lifespan. For the past year, the five hospitals of the Lifespan health system have maintained Twitter and Facebook accounts, as well as a YouTube channel for the system as a whole. On our Hospital Impact blog, Nancy Cawley Jean, Lifespan's senior media relations officer, discusses that organization's trials and tribulations.

To learn more:
- here's Mayo's press release
- check out the website for Mayo's center
- read the Wall Street Journal Health Blog interview
- read the Minneapolis Star Tribune's article
- check out charts touting Ed Bennett's statistics
- see Jean's post on the Hospital Impact blog

Neil Versel contributed to this article.

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