Growing Use of Social Media by Hospitals

According to a recent article on, “more hospitals are hiring staff members dedicated solely to social media — and getting physicians to use these tools”.  While the article notes that “there are little data to show hospital executives about the financial and quality-of-care effects of social media”, it offer sthe following explanation of the growing interest in social media from Robert Matney, a partner who follows health and social media for Austin, Texas-based consulting firm Social Web Strategies:

“Part of why hospitals are heading in this direction is part of the general zeitgeist, the general awareness that these ways of communication and connecting with each other are transforming hospitals and their relationships.  Top executives in the medical industry [have] not yet come to terms with the fact that this change is profound and pervasive. And it’s a transformation in how business is getting done.”

The article includes an informative sidebar on social media best practices.  These include:

  • Listen before you leap. The best way to learn about how social media works — and what you can do with it — is to spend time on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other sites just seeing what’s going on. That way, you can get a feel for the rhythm of each site, think about what your place would be in the conversation, and determine which site, or sites, fits in with your social media goals.
  • Have something to say — and speak often. To build an audience, you need to have something interesting to say to your intended audience. And you can’t just post once a week and expect feedback. You have to post with some frequency and regularity to get people to look at you as a source.
  • Ensure that conversations go both ways. One of the most effective ways to build a social media audience is to respond to what others have to say. You’re talking to and with people, not at them.
  • Don’t be a jerk. Avoid being argumentative, or posting anything that is libelous, profane, obscene, threatening, hateful, harassing or embarrassing to another person. Beyond any professional repercussions, remember that, just like in real life, people on social media don’t want to be stuck in a conversation with a boor. Assume that whatever you post stays on the Internet forever.
  • Abide by all laws and policies. You might know that posting information about a patient could violate privacy laws, but you might not know that pasting a picture from a newspaper site onto your blog violates copyright laws. Meanwhile, if you are posting as a representative from your practice or hospital, you should abide by all policies that cover electronic media. You should use a disclaimer to say that any opinions are yours and don’t represent the organization.
  • Think before you post. Nothing says you have to post a thought as soon as you have it. If you’re not sure whether a post is appropriate, many hospitals, medical associations and others have contacts with which you can discuss whether the post meets all legal and ethical standards — or whether the post is merely just a bad idea.



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