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Posted on 03.06.2012

Risky or Not, Social Media Has Big Impact on Public Perceptions of Hospitals

Hospital and healthcare marketers are challenged by attorneys and compliance officers who, rightfully so, are constantly wringing their hands about the use of social media.  Their main concern is that an employee will unwittingly violate patient privacy rules and bring on lawsuits as well as public ridicule. It makes sense for legal counsel to tell marketers to play it safe; that's an attorney's job.  But it's a marketer’s job to figure out how to harness the power of social media like Facebook to help advance a hospital’s mission and business objectives in a manner that is legal, ethical and appropriate to the organization’s culture. Mayo Clinic has been a pioneer in healthcare social media and offers great "footsteps to guide" when adopting a hospital social media program and establishing appropriate policies. Perhaps the most compelling reason legal counsel and hospital marketing officers should collaborate is this: 81 percent of respondents to a recent survey about consumer healthcare preferences and expectations indicate they believe hospitals with a strong social media presence are more likely to be on the cutting edge of medicine. This is amazing.  As a healthcare and hospital marketing and PR professional, I can attest to the fact that there has been a huge amount of money spent throughout the last 25 years to advertise and promote "high tech" services and equipment and "state of the art" medicine.  We've done a great job in those years, but it’s exciting to have such a powerful new tool in the kit. To be sure, social media management is never free and it’s rarely cheap.  Done right, it takes resources and a long term commitment. But the ROI is stunning: more than half of people surveyed (57 percent) said that a social media connection with a hospital would have a major impact on their decision to go to that hospital. When I think about the money and creative resources needed to advertise enough in any given market to make 81 percent of consumers (!) believe a hospital is on the cutting edge of medicine, I am truly surprised that hospital chief financial officers aren't beating down their attorneys’ doors to get the blessing and guidance needed to proceed full steam with social media efforts. If you work with hospitals, can you share what kinds of barriers you run into with starting or expanding your social media program?  Let's really crack this thing open. Photo credit: digitalart

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