Social media has become mainstream in healthcare. The most successful healthcare institutions use social media as a means to an end for existing goals -- not as a collection of tools. Here are 5 best practices:
1. Humanize the Institution
The Mayo Clinic offers Expert Blogs across a variety of frequently-searched topics such as "Living with cancer", "Depression", and "Nutrition-wise". Each blog is managed by one or more Mayo Clinic expert. The Nutrition-wise blog is written by Mayo Clinic nutritionists, Jennifer Nelson and Katherine Zeratsky. A recent post offering advice to parents on using the Halloween candy "landslide" as a teaching opportunity prompted more than a dozen readers to chime in with tips of their own. While Mayo Clinic's health library is arguably the best on the web, these blogs are an effective way of putting a human face on the institution.
2. Allow patients to tell their stories
Nebraska Medical Center has an extensive YouTube presence with 292 videos that have generated more than 400,000 views. Nebraska not only posts its corporate video collateral, but also showcases indvidual patient stories. For example, patient Christina Chambers tells her own story of battling with weight. The solution was a gastric sleeve surgery where the majority of her stomach was removed. In a little over 5 minutes, the Nebraska Medical Center turned an abstract and intimidating procedure into real human story.
3. Disseminate Timely Information
Scott & White Healthcare saw a 78% jump in Twitter followers in the wake of the Ft. Hood shootings when it used social media to keep the community informed of the status of health resources such as ER access. Greater Baltimore Medical Center used Twitter to correct misinformation. In August 2010, a local news outlet incorrectly reported that an armed robber was in the hospital. GBMC reacted quickly on Twitter to establish the truth.
4. Get Direct Feedback
Scripps Hospital uses social media for customer service. At Scripps, there is a position that carries the title of "Electronic Customer Service Representative". The ECSR responds to online views and tweets directed at the hospital. Scripps view is that reputations can be made and lost faster online than off and, left unattended, social media is a reputational risk.
5. Recruit Employees
Geisenger Health System in Danville, Pennsylvannia uses social media to recruit physicians. According to an interview in HealthLeaders Media, Geisenger developed a social media campaign targeting gastroenterologists. Citing a New England Journal of Medicine of Study that suggested that over 70% of physicians hunted for jobs online, Geisenger launched a Facebook page that was meant to capture the job seekers as they searched the web. The health system was able to hire physicians that came to them through the social media campaign.