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Posted on 06.16.2015

Hospitals Should Consider Social Media

Social Media has taken new form since Facebooks launch in 2004.  Platforms are no longer just a space for teens and young adults to update statuses and keep tabs on each others relationships. Social Media has become a key source for many businesses - including hospitals and physician practices - to connect with their patients in a personal and relevant way.  healthcare-social-media

But not all social media platforms are created equal, and not all hospitals have joined, connected, pinned or shared a selfie.  Of the 5,686 hospitals registered with the American Hospital Association, fewer than a third are managing official social media sites.  According to the Mayo Clinics Social Media Health Network, only 1,302 hospitals are on Facebook, 1,008 are tweeting and 718 are maintaining YouTube channels.

Perhaps the numbers are low because the decision to join a social media platform can’t be taken lightly. Though the marketing and patient engagement potential for social media continues to grow, so does the potential for harm. Healthcare providers need to have a plan for launching and maintaining a social media presence and dedicated resources to manage the effort, as well as strong policies and continued education to help employees lessen risks.

57% of consumers report that a hospital's social media connections would strongly affect their decision to receive treatment at that facility -American Hospital Association 

Avoiding social media can bring its own hazards.  NOT being on social media does NOT prevent Facebook from creating a location page on your behalf or a disgruntled former employee from blasting your organization on their own social media platform.  A patient who doesn’t feel warm and welcomed after sitting in your ED waiting room for two hours can post a complaint, photo or video without leaving their uncomfortable vinyl chair. 

Other risks to sitting on the sidelines include:

Risk for Patients: When healthcare providers join the right social media platform they can correct misleading or inaccurate health information and help guide patients to reputable sources. By providing a platform for accurate and helpful information, the community is empowered and can take charge of their health in a positive way.

Risk to Brand: When hospitals do not actively monitor social networks, they are less likely to be aware of online criticisms and other threats to their reputation. Organizations have a weak defense without an established social media presence. They are not in a strong position to counter incorrect claims with accurate and relevant information.

Risk in a Crisis: When community disasters strike, communities turn to social media for updates and direction. Without having a clear plan and designated communicator to manage your social media efforts during a crisis, you will reinforce confidence in your community that the hospital cares in all circumstances and avoid confusion about your services and operations.

A strong social media presence can help a hospital or physician clinic strengthen authentic relationships and engagement with patients, staff and community partners. Conversely, a total void of social media presence can lead to gaps in trust, knowledge and confidence among key stakeholders.  There are risks to getting in the pool, and there are risks to sitting it out.  

You can be sure of one thing: if you choose not to provide a platform for accurate information, proven resources and transparency, your employees, patients and community will continue to use social media anyway.

*photo courtesy of easypay


Leslie Raney is an Assistant Account Executive at Lovell Communications. Connect with Leslie at Leslie@lovell.com 

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