Healthcare Technology Featured Article

July 30, 2012

Social Media Gets an A+ For Use in Healthcare

Social media has mostly been talked about in the negative when it comes to hospitals and healthcare organizations.

Data breaches – Confidential records, with personal info like Social Security numbers, leaked to the public. Doctors talking about patients on unsecured iPhones and other devices.

It’s all happening, for sure. But some good things are happening too, when it comes to social media and the healthcare world.

According to Rebecca McNeil, educational content manager,, “Hospital marketing and HR departments seem to have embraced social media right away, specifically Facebook and Twitter,” she said in an interview.  “It’s a customer-service-driven industry so these platforms are a great way to engage current and prospective patients.”

McNeil noted that one of her company’s clients, Cleveland Clinic, has a cover image on Facebook promoting their recent top ranking in U.S. News & World Reports Best Hospitals issue. “In fact, they were ranked #1 in cardiology and heart surgery. This is a great thing to promote to potential patients.”

In addition, current and past patients showed their support on the Facebook page, “which drove engagement,” she revealed, while the demographics for Facebook tend to work better for hospitals.

As for Twitter, its many users may still be too “young,” typically at ages 18 to 25, to really care about healthcare. But Facebook, on the other hand, popular with women ages 45 to 65, is a keeper. “Seems to me those are the decision makers in the family for where to seek medical treatment!” McNeil said.

Hospitals are also a great fit for Facebook because it’s a source of peer recommendations, McNeil added. “If you see your Facebook friend posting praise on a hospital’s business page, you will definitely think about going to that hospital next time you need a medical procedure.”

Hospitals should not be afraid to ask people to recommend them on Facebook (you can actually ask for recommendations from your “likes” right on Facebook) and to like their status when they post something engaging – like a patient success story.

And it’s not just for patients. McNeil said that HR departments are “now partnering with marketing departments to help them learn how to use social media for recruitment” of medical personnel, using similar tactics. Some healthcare organizations, like MedStar, which considers recruitment to be business development, run social media channels just like a marketing department, she reported.

And finally, there are the patients, who may just be the biggest beneficiaries of new media. McNeil said that educating the public on diseases and answering common health questions through social media is not only smart marketing, but may even keep a community healthier, referencing Cleveland Clinic, which does this all the time on its Facebook page.

Another healthcare organization using social media, Tufts Medical Center, created “Tufts TV” to give advice on everything from “Does Chicken Soup Really Cure the Common Cold?”, on their Fact or Myth program to address serious medical conditions.

Social media even gets high marks from the public relations side of the house. A story at showcases 20 hospitals that use it well, including Mayo Clinic, where patients can connect online with each other, to Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, where doctors blog and were even able to share updates with readers and patients on the relief efforts that followed the earthquake in Haiti in 2010.

“Content is king these days,” said McNeil. “Social media is a great platform, because it reaches so many people, to share that content.”

Edited by Braden Becker
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