by Rohit Bhargava
Category: Digital Influence
Amidst the attention on Twitter and how Pharma brands may be using it, what the FDA is doing with their blog and the rise of internet users finding health information on the web there is one group that has been quietly innovating with using social media without receiving much attention or credit for it.
Today in the US, there are 367 hospitals that are actively using social media. Collectively they are responsible for 186 YouTube Channels which include over 5,000 videos. They have created 267 Twitter accounts and published more than 10,000 tweets. (Stats from Ed Bennett’s great Hospital Social Networking List) In the process, hospitals are creating several interesting case studies of the power of social media:
A patient who had surgery for a rare carcinoid cancer at the Nebraska Medical Center and shared her cancer experience via YouTube generated so many requests for the surgery that it prompted NMC to open a monthly clinic for the condition.
Back in March, at the Henry Ford Hospital near Detroit, doctors used Twitter as an interactive media to connect with more than 1,900 people to answer tweeted questions during actual brain surgery on a 47-year-old man.
Recently the Children’s Hospital Boston launched the first health and science blog from a pediatric hospital in the country, called Thrive.
The President and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston is using a blog to share an opinion and comment on behalf of the hospital on the possibility of a public health insurance plan.
The Sarasota Memorial Hospital is using Twitter to actively answer patient questions and provide real time customer service and support for patients and their family.
These are just a few of the many examples emerging from hospitals as they continue to explore opportunities for using social media.
Why Does It Matter?
Hospitals are on the front lines of patient care, at the intersection of the medical community and healthcare information. As people continue to seek healthcare options online, local information will hold a currency and importance that makes this information not only relevant but also actionable in terms of physically going to a particular location.
These hospitals are also at the center of the public health policy debate happening in Washington right now, and have a vested interest in how and if a public insurance option does come to fruition. They also have a marketing challenge and customer service challenge as they struggle to continue to have people select their facility and address the needs (and sometimes issues) of their patient population.
There is significant data to show that these efforts are paying off as well. Web traffic on the majority of hospital sites has risen exponentially for those that use social media, and a recent report from Ad-ology noted that social media impacts nearly 40% of recent hospital or urgent-care center patients, with more than half of 25-to-34 year olds reporting they are influenced by it. According to the report, this was particularly pronounced when it came to women deciding on hospitals for maternity care.
Summary & Implications
As more hospitals continue to gravitate towards social media, they will continue sharing their experiences with other hospitals at industry events and online. This is already leading to a rapid rise in social media adoption among new hospitals. For those hospitals who have become sophisticated in their use, leveraging blogs, Twitter and Facebook, they often have built a significant patient channel that could be useful to partner with in order to reach for various marketing reasons, including polling, identifying potential spokespeople and crafting marketing strategy for new products. Some of the individuals leading the way for hospitals to engage with social media may also be potential speakers, advisors and even, in some cases, strategic hires for any of clients to make to build or grow an internal team of social media focused communications professionals.