Within the United States, larger, urban, academic and pediatric hospitals are far more likely to gravitate to (and take advantage of) what social media has to offer. Smaller, suburban entities are losing out due to misperceptions and fears of big, bad social media.
Health organizations that don’t participate in social media cite concerns about HIPAA regulations or a lack of resources and expertise needed to take the plunge. The truth is that privacy can be managed, and social media isn’t a cost liability.
Hospitals can’t refuse to engage while their competition tweets circles around them and expect to come out on top.
Regular interaction with consumers has numerous tangible benefits that make the time and effort spent on Facebook, Twitter and other avenues worthwhile for both patients and providers.
But as a hospital, what are the incentives to spend valuable resources on social media when healthcare facilities are increasingly expected to do so much more, with so much less?
1. Hear what your patients think
Monitoring social media sites let medical providers tap into their patients’ lives and hear what they really think and what services are needed. If you want to improve the patient experience, you need to HEAR about the patient experience. This is the easiest way to up your customer service game.
2. Broaden your reputation
You can be your own best brand ambassador. Broaden your hospital’s reputation by promoting specific service line areas, specialties, and doctors at the click of a keyboard.
3. Engage your consumers
Consumers can readily keep up-to-date on new technology, capital improvements and areas of growth within your facility by reading your blogs or looking at your news feed. And engaged consumers are more likely to call your facility next time they need something.
4. Enhance patient relationships
Relationships, relationships, relationships. Social media can connect prospective patients and providers in addition to strengthening and enhancing existing patient relationships. The stronger the relationship, the better the loyalty is to you and your facility. Patients respond to and trust providers who are willing to be seen and accountable.
5. Encourage active, informed patients
Reading or watching the content you provide can encourage patients to be active and informed participants in their own health, fostering a healthy lifestyle, greater compliance to diets and health regimens, in a low-key and familiar environment.
6. Keep current
Physicians and hospitals can provide the most current health information, recommendations, and research in a timely and consistent manner to a wide audience in whatever format fits best.
7. Celebrate success
How better to celebrate your employees and spotlight successes than publicly? Showcasing professional achievements, personal stories and triumphs allow the public to see your hospital caretakers and staff as real individuals. It demystifies the healthcare system and the people in it.
8. Keep your staff engaged
Is recruitment or retention a problem? Engaged staff stick around. And potential recruits are drawn to active, successful healthcare organizations. Social media makes it easy to brag about your activity, culture, and successes within the four walls of your hospital.
9. Reach more people
And guess what? Videos, blogs, articles, and posts can all be multi-purposed for media coverage, hospital newsletters, fundraising and Foundation purposes. Social media content is a great way to reach reporters, journalists, and bloggers. Re-share anyone? Yes, please.
10. Streamline workloads
On-line avenues can potentially streamline workload, reducing phone calls and emails. For example, in an emergency, crisis information can be quickly and easily disseminated reaching a wide audience instantaneously.
And what about the patients? Social media can give consumers the tools they need, and the empowerment sometimes lacking, to find providers, healthcare information, and research, and then act upon it. Patients can connect with other patients and share experiences, common healthcare interests, and provider recommendations. Consumers can be big winners in the patient experience game when a healthcare organization has a strong social media presence. The only loser is the healthcare organization who has not yet taken the dive.
(Founded in 1998, Contrast Creative specializes in healthcare marketing and communications. We can help your hospital get social this year.)