4 Nifty Ways Hospitals Utilize Social Media

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hospitals use social media

Social media has become a daily part of millions of people’s lives. Hospitals like the Mayo Clinic recognize the power of social media, as reflected by their active twitter account which is currently ranked as No. 1 with more than half a million followers. Cleveland Clinic is third on YouTube, with nearly 3 million views. And the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston, Texas, ranks 30th on Flickr, with 115 Flickr photos.

All three of these institutions share a common thread of having a powerful, active, and engaging social media interface platform and were rand 1st, 2nd, and 3rd respectively in a recent Top 50 Most Social Media Friendly Hospitals for 2013 listing developed by a group called MHADegree.org; which was founded back in 2007 and is largely funded by an array of colleges and universities with the intent of providing free information to students and healthcare professionals who wish to pursue a master’s degree in health administration. 

And given the obvious fact that we are living in a digital age, a job in administration in just about any division will consistently involve releasing some sort of information out to the general public, which translates into the dissemination of such information through the use of social media.

According to editor of MHADegree.org and the social media list’s author, Bethanny Parker, there is no lack of reasons on why healthcare organizations should have a concrete, ever-evolving social media plan in place. Parker also notes four smart ways on how hospitals can utilize social media.

1-    Awareness: According to Parker, one of the most vital uses of social media is as a multi-dimensional means of providing new, often times crucial information out to the public. “Perhaps a new test has been developed that can catch a certain cancer earlier. The viral nature, so to speak, of social media can be a very effective means of disseminating information quickly, particularly when that information comes from a highly regarded medical source and can be of immediate use to a patient,” she said.

2-    Engaging and connecting with customers: It is no secret that any business needs to uphold its reputation, which makes hospitals and other healthcare providers no different. According to a recent study published by the Journal of Medical Internet Research discovered that “approximately 60 percent of Internet users report using the Internet to look for health information.” Couple those two facts together and it is obvious that hospitals that wish to assist and serve the public must accommodate and engage the public based on where they are, which nowadays is on the Internet.

3-    Neutral information: Parker believes one of the more subtle uses of social media is “the way it can provide a way to connect with a healthcare provider without committing to an appointment.” As it is commonly known a patient might be a little hesitant or anxious (based on the severity of the condition) to directly reach out and talk to a healthcare professional about receiving treatment. For instance, through Facebook, providers can supply information and recommendation in open setting, with the objective of making potential patients feel more at ease when it comes to reaching out directly.

4-    Flash mobs: While this tactic is a little more unconventional than some of the other options available on social media it can have an impact if employed appropriately; as Parker alluded to a group called Tobacco Control Nigeria that recently utilized a flash mob to educate passer-bys on the hazards of smoking.

Parker has seen the rise of social media prevalence within most major healthcare orginizations and expects it to continue. Programs like Flickr, Instgram, among others are gaining popularity and usage. Terms such as ‘Like,’ and ‘Tweet,’ have become widely understood and used as part of everyday vocabulary. Therefore, it is safe to assume hospitals and social media will continue to evolve together.