Observers advise hospitals on use of social media

Pundits are full of suggestions for how hospitals should use social media. Hard on the heels of a long post by healthcare attorney David Harlow on his HealthBlawg, two other articles offered additional ideas about how best to employ Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, et al.

Christina Thielst, a hospital administrator who writes the blog Christina's Considerations, provided tips for making effective use of social media in an interview with Healthcare IT News. Among her suggestions:

  • Create or update a Wikipedia page on the hospital
  • Google the hospital's name to find out what's being said about it
  • Customize your social media strategy to your size, culture and needs
  • Start with Twitter if you're a small organization without many social media-savvy staffers
  • Establish policies and procedures to protect private, confidential information
  • Recognize opportunities for using social media to improve health outcomes
  • Allow hospitalized patients to communicate with friends and family via social media
  • Monitor conversations about your facility on social media sites so you can improve the patient experience
  • Have staffers tweet about actual events and thoughts, instead of sending out scripted tweets
  • Use newer forms of social media, such as video blogging, to provide educational content to patients
  • Ensure appropriate privacy settings on sponsored social media channels
  • Use texting to support patients' efforts to change health behavior.

In addition, in a recent Becker's Hospital Review article, A.J. Meleragno, vice president of hospital markets for Sharecare, a social platform for healthcare information, added some tips for marketing hospitals through social media. Meleragno, who formerly served as vice president of marketing for Evanston, Ill.-based Northshore University Health System, said the first step is to get hospital leaders to understand the importance of social media and the cost-effectiveness of using these channels for marketing purposes.

Second, he said, social media marketing should be integrated with traditional marketing vehicles. Whereas the latter is like broadcasting your message, social media are best suited for narrowcasting to patients with specific healthcare needs.

Meleragno also advised hospitals to maintain a consistent brand image across traditional and social media outlets. They should create "actionable events," he said, that allow patients to interact with their organizations; for example, they could provide an opportunity for patients to ask questions of staff physicians and perhaps make appointments with them later. Finally, he said, hospitals must be prepared to react to adverse events, such as data breaches, presenting themselves consistently across all media, including social media channels.

To learn more:
- read the Healthcare IT News article
- read the Becker's Hospital Review piece
- check out Thielst's blog 

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