Facebook Useful for Hospitals

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Social media and Facebook tips for hospitals

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Facebook Useful for Hospitals

  1. 1. Facebook: Useful Communication Channel Or Waste Of Time For Hospitals?Abstract – The reputation of Facebook as a useful communication channel between hospitals andpatients has been sullied by a number of social media gaffes by hospital employees, some of whichinvolved HIPAA violations (http://goo.gl/E8H4E). Perhaps as a result, many contradictory opinions onFacebook as a communication channel for hospitals have been published, indicating that social media,such as Facebook, is either a waste of time for hospitals and doctors (http://goo.gl/QU0gz) or a greatcommunication resource which hospitals need to engage with (http://goo.gl/kKmy4). We examine theproper use of Facebook by hospitals, to demonstrate that it can engage patients and generate warm,positive feelings toward the hospital – included a detailed case study of how one hospital usesFacebook.Introduction -Recently many contradictory opinions on Facebook as a communication channel for hospitals have beenpublished (for this article, all full web links are given at the end). Social media, such as Facebook, iseither a waste of time for hospitals and doctors (http://goo.gl/QU0gz) or a great communicationresource which hospitals need to engage with (http://goo.gl/kKmy4). Smaller hospitals are better atFacebook than larger hospitals (http://goo.gl/jwNzE ) except when they aren’t. Social media is a one waycommunication blast from hospitals (http://goo.gl/TeCmx ), except when it isn’t (see for example thisdescription of patient engagement through Facebook - http://goo.gl/YMrYy ). And of course, it isimportant to remember the many horrible hospital-related gaffes performed by hospital employees ontheir private Facebook pages, usually involving some type of breach of patient privacy – involving bothdoctors (http://goo.gl/E8H4E ) and nurses (http://goo.gl/WNIIO ).Even medical organizations that believe in the importance of social media and that want to set useful,helpful guidelines for their use as a communication channel tend to view social media, such asFacebook, with alarm. For example, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), the professionalmembership body for family doctors in the UK, is seeking doctors’ input on a Social Media HighwayCode, a set of draft guidelines for the use of social media by physicians in the UK http://goo.gl/0uZ67 ).In the draft, the RCGP makes the rather startling assertion that physicians should follow the unwrittencode adopted by cowboys in the newly discovered frontier of the Wild West when engaging with socialmedia (http://goo.gl/tsA6w ).With all of these contradictions, what is possible to say about Facebook and hospitals? To answer thisquestion, it is necessary to consider the Why, What and How of Facebook. info@iMedSocial.com www.iMedSocial.com
  2. 2. 2Why Facebook for hospitals – because your patients are on Facebook, communicating with each otherabout their medical experiences and concerns – and also about you, the hospital. Avoiding Facebook islike trying to avoid direct communication with your patients; it is a bad idea generally and won’t lead tosuccess in the long run. Hospitals want to help their patients and want to engage with them; sincepatients are on Facebook, it is important for the hospitals to be there too.What can Facebook do for hospitals – Facebook provides a comfortable, engaging platform for patientsto discuss their medical fears and lack of information, as well as their experiences with providers ofmedical care. Hospitals which acknowledge this role of Facebook can use it to provide accurateinformation, allay medical fears and use patient feedback to provide more positive medical experiences.How does Facebook work? This last question relates to many potential pitfalls for hospitals andproviders of medical care. Facebook is a public on-line forum; although many users experience feelingsof intimacy, comfort and connectedness through interacting with Facebook, it is anything but private.Hospitals need to always ensure that patient privacy is respected, even if a patient chooses to postprivate medical information on a public hospital Facebook page, and to encourage patients to interactwith the hospital in a manner which respects patients’ privacy.This last point is one reason that many hospitals shy away from even attempting to engage withFacebook; they fear violations of patient privacy and loss of control over patient data. However, ifhospitals engage correctly with patients through Facebook, they can provide a positive experience topatients while respecting their privacy and maintaining data protection as required under HIPAA.What do your patients like on Facebook?In a study entitled "The Economics of Social Computing: Some Preliminary Findings on HealthcareOrganizations" published in the Journal of Computational Science in August 2011, a number of pointswere found to give patients a positive Facebook experience with a hospital. These points included:  Share positive news, such as birth announcements (obviously being careful to conform to HIPAA for patient privacy)  Post about new developments – a new wing, new services – anything that helps the patient achieve a deeper/more extensive interaction with the hospital  Emphasize your hospital’s expertise, whether in particular services or in specific patient categoriesOther studies have suggested posting quizzes and other interactive applications for patients to enjoy.Some hospitals, such as the Mayo Clinic, encourage patients to post their personal stories and photos onFacebook (http://goo.gl/yYWpO ). info@iMedSocial.com www.iMedSocial.com
  3. 3. 3Providing a positive experience to your patients on Facebook – case studyTo demonstrate how these seemingly contradictory aspects of Facebook – intimate, connectedconversations in a public forum – can be overcome for positive patient engagement by hospitals, we willexamine a case study of successful Facebook interactions by a hospital. The hospital that we selected,Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), is an award-winning pediatric hospital (we have noconnections to this hospital). It has a strong national and international reputation, but also prides itselfon its local connections and place in the local community. Here is a link to its Facebook page:http://www.facebook.com/ChildrensHospitalofPhiladelphia.Figure 1 shows the top part of the CHOP Facebook page, showing the logo “All Better – Again” and textindicating that CHOP ranked number 1 in more specialties in the US News & World Report. The awardbadge is off to the right (indicated by a circle); the main focus of this part of the page is on a smiling,obviously healthy child – thereby demonstrating the hospital’s slogan of “All Better”. This part of thepage already emphasizes the hospital’s commitment to curing children, and to restore children back tohealth.Figure 1 – top part of CHOP Facebook pageAt the bottom part of Figure 1, as indicated by the rectangle, the hospital has chosen to provideinformation about itself that could be potentially useful for the parents of patients. On the far left, adescription is provided about CHOP, which parents can scroll down to read. Next to the text, there is aphotograph (shown in Figure 2 below), which can be clicked to view more photographs about thehospital. The next box shows the number of “Likes” (for this hospital, 41899 at the time that the info@iMedSocial.com www.iMedSocial.com
  4. 4. 4snapshot was taken), followed by a map so that parents can locate the hospital. The map also clearlyanchors CHOP’s geographic and hence community location, further demonstrating its communityconnections. Finally, the last box can be clicked to view videos posted on this page.Figure 1 clearly sums up the character and personality of this hospital – that CHOP is a save, warmenvironment that you can trust your children with as patients, with high standards of excellence asrecognized by external bodies. These feelings – and Facebook pages, when successful, should stronglyinvoke those feelings that are desired by the hospital – enable CHOP to communicate in a warm,intimate manner on a public forum.Figure 2 shows how photographs and accompanying stories can be used on hospital Facebook pages tofurther invoke those desired feelings. The photograph in this Figure, indicated by the blue square,shows Spiderman entertaining the children. The children are clearly excited and happy to see their hero– and are also clearly healthy enough to be able to respond to his visit energetically. The children areclearly patients at the hospital – one is shown wearing hospital pajamas – but their energy levels arehigh enough to show that CHOP is well on its way to making good on its promise of “All Better” withthese children. Note that the children are shown from the back, to reduce HIPAA concerns, althoughpresumably the parents’ permission was also obtained.Figure 2 – CHOP’s use of photos info@iMedSocial.com www.iMedSocial.com
  5. 5. 5Figure 3 shows the use of videos as educational tools and for community outreach to parents – therebyfurther cementing the hospital’s character as an organization which cares about parents and children ingeneral. The video in the Figure, as indicated by the blue square, relates to eczema, a basic healthconcern of parents. Children might not be expected to end up at CHOP due to eczema, but the videodemonstrates CHOP’s medical expertise to parents who might later need the hospital’s services for theirchildren for other reasons.Figure 3 – Video is used to cement CHOP as pediatric medical expertFigure 4 shows the same part of the Facebook page as Figure 3, but emphasizing posts andrecommendations by parents. The square shows general posts by parents, in which they discuss injuriesthat brought them to CHOP and thanked the hospital for the Spiderman visit. The circle shows a fewrecommendations from parents, which are warm and heartfelt – again invoking feelings of warmth andtrust in other parents who might consider this hospital for their own children in the future. info@iMedSocial.com www.iMedSocial.com
  6. 6. 6Figure 4 – parents’ posts and recommendations for CHOPThus, CHOP – Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia – has managed to maintain a warm, intimateatmosphere in a public forum through its Facebook page. Parents clearly feel that the hospital caresabout them, and so they communicate with the hospital through postings and recommendations. CHOPcarefully maintains patient privacy and avoids HIPAA violations, by avoiding any type of patient details inpostings controlled by the hospital (parents are of course free to supply such details if they choose).If you are interested in how we can help your hospital with Facebook or any other type of social media,please email us at info@imedsocial.com. We would be happy to discuss our tips for successful socialmedia campaigns for hospitals and medical care providers.Full Web links –http://goo.gl/QU0gz = http://www.thehappymd.com/healthcare-social-media-a-waste-of-time-for-most-doctors/http://goo.gl/kKmy4 = http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2011/03/hospitals-engaged-social-media-presence-facebook-twitter.htmlhttp://goo.gl/jwNzE = http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Health-Care-IT/Smaller-Hospitals-Use-Facebook-More-Effectively-Study-Finds-442939/ info@iMedSocial.com www.iMedSocial.com
  7. 7. 7http://goo.gl/TeCmx = http://www.fiercehealthit.com/story/survey-hospital-social-media-use-basic-unidirectional/2012-10-02http://goo.gl/YMrYy = http://www.fiercehealthit.com/story/facebook-posts-increase-patient-engagement/2012-03-06http://goo.gl/E8H4E = http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2011/04/doctor-reprimanded-patient-privacy-breached-facebook.htmlhttp://goo.gl/WNIIO = http://www.nursetogether.com/Career/Career-Article/itemId/2222/Nurses-and-Social-Networking-Think-Twice-About-Wh.aspxhttp://goo.gl/0uZ67 = http://www.onmedica.com/NewsArticle.aspx?id=c5c35ddd-ab6a-4d8a-85c3-081b91988890http://goo.gl/tsA6w = http://www.gponline.com/News/article/1153131/gps-observe-wild-west-rules-new-online-world-rcgp-warns/http://goo.gl/yYWpO = http://www.fiercehealthit.com/story/facebook-posts-increase-patient-engagement/2012-03-06 info@iMedSocial.com www.iMedSocial.com

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