As we move toward an environment in which technology is more widely accepted, there’s little doubt tools that organizations like hospitals and health systems (individuals, too, for that matter) use to build their brands, educate their communities and engage patients are paying dividends.
At least for the organizations taking steps to utilize the tools.
According to a new survey by CSC (Computer Sciences Corporation) conducted in July and August, of 36 hospitals, the use of social media in the space is growing, and having some positive effects on the communities each serves.
In the survey, hospitals reported using social media to enhance their brands, create awareness and manage their reputations, as well as “to promote wellness and healthy behaviors through the dissemination of generic information for a general audience.”
CSC found that for organizations, direct engagement with individual patients remains uncommon and only one hospital reported that it uses social media in care coordination or care management, unlike some individual caregivers who actually use the tools to engage patient populations with generic care instruction or knowledge transfer.
Healthcare organizations, like all of us using social media, want to attract a large audience to our message and products. However, using social media for improved patient outcomes were not a popular objective according to the survey as less than 25 percent of organizations listing it as a primary objective.
Only a couple hospitals survey said they did not use social media at all, citing fear of liability or malpractice concerns, and concerns that users would post negative comments about the organization while some organizations do not get involved in social media because they do not feel they have the internal expertise needed to drive the program.
Now the real heavy lifting begins.
According to CSC, “The next step for hospitals and health systems will be to use social media more strategically. The risk and cost of doing so is relatively small, yet the upside includes potentially substantial performance improvements and the realization of sizable competitive advantages.”
Beyond building brands and managing messages, healthcare organizations may wish to think about more their products, long-term goals like driving patient engagement and improving healthcare outcomes.
To take action and begin moving a social media and engagement program forward, CSC recommends the following, and I quote:
- Develop an overarching strategy of how to make social media work for you. Begin with easy areas, such as marketing and communications, proceed to patient education and announcements, and then look for ways to leverage social media to improve care and generate other benefits. Look for ways to connect patients to providers, or providers to each other.
- Get involved in social media now at whatever level you feel comfortable with and/or have the resources to manage (do not take a wait-and-see attitude or it will be too late and your patients will find someone else to interact with). It is often possible to recruit savvy users internally who are excited about the technology
- Pre-empt possible negative experiences by communicating openly about social media with employees and with patients. Develop a social media policy that outlines appropriate use for staff, and post a disclaimer on your site informing patients that information provided is not meant to serve as medical advice. Social media is a force for good; concerns about the use of social media are often overstated. Individuals are more likely to share positive health-related experiences via social media than negative experiences.
We’re here now, we’re ready and the tools are available to serve the greater good. It’s time to engage, damn the consequences.