Social Media in Health Care

The American health care system as we know it is changing. Whether the impetus for change is as significant as the Supreme Court upholding the Affordable Care Act or as minor as a dentist selling teeth-cleaning services on Groupon, the industry is undergoing serious reform. Somewhere on the continuum between Groupon and the Supreme Court lies social media – Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and more.

The growing use of social media in health care is driven by consumers’ demand for transparency. Social media gives the public access to health information, serves as a platform for people with shared health concerns and provides health information that is relevant to consumers.

Still think social media in health care industry is a fad? Think again. The infographic below indicates more than 1,000
hospitals in the U.S. have Facebook accounts. This number
has more than doubled since 2010.

Hospitals and other organizations are no longer asking if they should
engage in social media in health care, but how to engage.
(They’re also asking when, with whom, to what extent and for what
purposes?) Some reasons
include
:

  • To engage health care stakeholders
  • To market and brand services
  • To manage public relations
  • To engage in crisis management/
    communications
  • To perform professional training and
    recruitment
  • To solicit research subjects
  • To divert valuable resources to
    focus on the manner in which people are increasingly spending their time and
    making their health care decisions

For example, some hospitals have begun using Twitter as a
teaching and marketing tool, live-tweeting a surgery for educational purposes
(think: real-time Q&A session) and also to keep the patient’s family
informed. Innovis Health in Fargo, N. D., implemented crisis communications
remotely via Twitter to provide regular updates when the hospital phone network
went down.

As with any new system or technology, it’s necessary to have
guidelines in place before implementing social media in health care
organizations. The first step before launching a social media campaign is to
develop a policy that outlines how social media in health care should be used
and how it will be monitored. To avoid any violation of HIPAA or a breach in
patient confidentiality, the plan should also align with all Federal and State
laws.

Do you rely on social media for health-related information?
Do you participate in online forums? Are you a doctor answering patients’
questions online? There are seemingly limitless applications for social media
interaction in the health care industry; we’d love to hear some of your
experiences.