Health Care and Social Media - How Does the Industry Navigate the New Landscape?


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Social media has fundamentally changed the patient to patient and patient to provider communications relationship. The advent of transparent, real time social media communication platforms that allow open and honest dialogue presents a host of opportunities for health care facilities to capitalize on positive patient sentiment and build a trusted support community to actively engage with. Patient evangelists can be identified and leveraged to spread good will and build brand equity to help maintain trust and confidence in health care services.

Just as the explosion of social media communication can translate into many positives for a health care facility, it can also work as a platform for patients to voice complaints and negativity. Health care providers should be aware that social media use requires a detailed and comprehensive plan for employees to follow that dictates guidelines and procedures to follow for patient communication and what steps to take in the event of positive or negative expressions. Are healthcare facilities adequately prepared to handle the new paradigm of social media communication?

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Health Care and Social Media - How Does the Industry Navigate the New Landscape?

  1. 1. M2SYS Healthcare SolutionsFree Online Learning PodcastsPodcast length – 43:07Social Media and Health Care – How Does the IndustryNavigate the New Communications Landscape?Liz SchererHealth Journalist, Digital Copywriter, Social MediaStrategist, Consultant, Blogger and Women’s HealthAdvocateEd BennettDirector of Web and Communications TechnologyUniversity of Maryland Medical System
  2. 2. Topics Covered in Podcast:How is social media changing the patient to patient and patientto provider communications paradigm?What reputation or brand damages can materialize if a patientdiscovers a duplicate or overlay on their electronic medicalrecord?What action steps can health care providers take toimmediately address & rectify bad publicity?How important is it for a healthcare organization to have a crisiscommunications plan in place and what percentage of facilitiesactually have one?How important has transparency in health care becomenow that patients are empowered to seek information andadvice on their own?
  3. 3. Topics Covered in Podcast (continued):Are hospitals prepared to deal with the social media positive andnegative communication from their patient base or do they stillhave a long way to go?Examples where hospitals have suffered, lost business, orexperienced damage to their brand name due to viral negativestories or headlines on social media.What proactive steps can hospitals take to avoid negativeheadlines?
  4. 4. Important Statistics• A recent Pew Research Center study says that 1 in 3 American adults haveused the web to figure out a medical issue• Roughly 1/3 of patients used tablets or mobile devices on a daily basis forresearch and/or to book appointments• 94% of prospective patients said the reputation of a medical facility isimportant in hospital selection• 51% of patients say they’d feel more valued as a patient via digital healthcommunications• 77% of patients used search prior to booking an appointment• 90% of adults 18 – 24 years of age said they would trust medicalinformation shared by others in their social media networks
  5. 5. Important Statistics (continued)• 41% of people said social media would affect their choice of a healthcareprovider• 26% of all hospitals in the US participate in social mediaSources:1. Pew Internet & American Life Project - January 20132. Fathom Digital Marketing & Analytics - January 2013
  6. 6. • Information sought by patients is influential on how social media haschanged the communications paradigm• Clinicians still remain a central resource for patients when it comes totechnical issues – still remain at center of communication model• Patients seek peers for information, emotional support, and practicaladvice on a medical diagnosis, prescription drugs and side effects viasocial media• Social media is fueling the rise in patient advocacy by those who feeldisenfranchised by the system• Rise in demand from a very small percentage of patients to becomepart of the overall health care provision system• Consumer demand far outstrips supply that health care providersbring to the table in social media• Recent Price Waterhouse Coopers report indicates that consumerstrust social media information from Doctors more than they trustinformation from hospitals, health insurers, or drug companiesHow is social media changing the patient to patientand patient to provider communications paradigm?
  7. 7. How is social media changing the patient to patientand patient to provider communications paradigm?• Number of Doctors participating in social media is still relativelysmall compared to the number of practicing physiciansDid you know?Four years ago, Ed Bennett founded theHospital Social Network List, a compilationof health-related organizations actively usingsocial networking sites and maintainingofficially sponsored accounts.
  8. 8. What Damages to a Healthcare Facility canMaterialize through Discovery of a Duplicate orOverlay by a Patient on their Own Medical Record?• Less of a danger, and more of an opportunity to have another set of eyes(patient) on medical records for review and possible correction• Patients tend to often be confused by their medical records and theinformation it contains for insurance purposes• Not viewed as potential for damage – patients get same quality treatmentthey always have, but now they have opportunity to see record, read it,and provide feedback – new check and balance wrinkle• Since State laws vary on how medical records can be amended, medicalrecord data isn’t erased, but amended so you can’t overwrite originalhealth record making patient/clinician/institutional relationship importantto remain strong
  9. 9. What actionable steps can healthcare providers taketo immediately address and rectify mistakes?• Once a mistake is identified, act swiftly and decisively to make thecorrection• Improved communication between different departments helps toproactively avoid future mistakes• Avoid using social media channels to communicate with patient onsensitive issues regarding their medical records – even if it’s a privatemessageDid you know?Liz Scherer writes a blog called “Flashfree,”geared towards providing evidence-based,alternative , and integrative strategies tomanage the medical, emotional, social, andphysical challenges of menopause
  10. 10. Crisis Communications Plans• Any reasonably sized hospital should have a crisis communications plan,and most do• The new wrinkle is adding social media communications as part of the planand thought should be given to determine how it will be used in times ofcrisis• Roots of how to use social media in times of crisis should be tied intocorporate social media communications plan and guidelines that outlinessocial behavior, etiquette• Importance should be placed on who specifically should be communicatingduring times of crisis with backups if an individual isn’t available
  11. 11. Importance of Transparency in Healthcare• Increasing demand from patient groups to play a more meaningful role inthe patient – provider relationship has spawned the need for healthcaretransparency• Social media has shifted patient empowerment from individuals to groups• As access to information becomes easier and more widespread therelationship between patient and provider is changing, many providersaren’t adequately prepared to deal with the information request influx –HIPAA laws, malpractice claims are barriers to information free flow• Physicians and providers using social media still remain somewhat siloed –talking more amongst themselves than directly to patients• Patient demand for greater transparency is high, but not quite beingrealized• At University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMS), nurse practitioners areprimary communication portals with patient support groups – physiciansaren’t always information purveyors
  12. 12. • It depends on the hospital• Larger hospitals usually have the staff and resources to addresspositive and negative comments in a timely manner• Smaller hospitals, which arguably make up the majority of the5,000+ hospitals in the country, are still not quite up to speed ondeveloping a social media action plan and team to address it• Most larger hospitals use social media monitoring tools like Radian 6 toactively listen to channels & instantly respond• Smaller hospitals on tighter budgets can use free tools like Google Alertsto monitor social media for positive and negative patient sentiment• Employee culture is key asset for all hospitals to prepare for social mediapatient communication – employees need to be empowered to be eyesand ears of organization• Additional key is to engage with patients, not just acknowledge – socialmedia is not meant to be a bullhornAre Hospitals Adequately Prepared to AddressPositive and Negative Social Media PatientCommunication?
  13. 13. Examples where Hospitals have Suffered BrandName Damage Due to Social Media• New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital Jay Z and Beyonce baby scandal• Taught the important lesson that once a scandal is active on aplatform, it is wise to address and contain it before it spreads toother platforms• St. Louis’ St. John’s Mercy Medical Center OB/GYN doctor patientcomplaint debacle• Showed us that it’s important healthcare providers study all thefacts before taking action, ensure fair treatment of employees whilebalancing sensitivity and concerns of patients** Having a plan in place on how to deal with social media communicationthat covers all plausible scenarios is key to timely, effective responses – theproblem will not just go away
  14. 14. What Proactive Steps can Healthcare Facilities taketo Diffuse an Otherwise Potentially VolatileSituation?• Foster a corporate culture of collective accountability for brand namereputation – every employee needs to have skin in the game• Build up the community of people you are engaging with• This helps to build a community of evangelists that can act on behalfof the organization in times of crisis or when dealing with negativityExample – Children’s Hospital of Boston – over 700,000 in Facebookcommunity• Be consistent in messaging – take a measured approach tocommunications and maintain uniformity• Have clearly defined goals before you embark on a social mediacommunications campaign – it helps to align goals with tactics
  15. 15. Thank you to Liz Scherer and Ed Bennettfor sharing their time and knowledge!
  16. 16. John TraderPR and Marketing ManagerM2SYS Technology1050 Crown Pointe Pkwy.Suite 850Atlanta, GA Information