The healthcare industry is in the midst of massive change. With the introduction of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), declining reimbursements, rising consumerism, and hospital consolidation, it is imperative for healthcare organizations to develop innovative strategies to increase their bottom line. In this increasingly competitive marketplace, branding is ever more critical to the success of your healthcare organization.
Enter social media. We currently live in a digital world where 80 percent of all internet users (approximately 93 million Americans), have searched for a health-related topic online. According to one study, 57 percent of consumers said a hospital’s social media presence would strongly influence their choice regarding where to go for services. It also indicated that a strong social media presence was interpreted by 81 percent of consumers as indicating the hospital offered cutting-edge technologies.
It is empirically clear there are tremendous opportunities to enhance your brand visibility through social media. As a regulated industry, however, healthcare organizations have been slow to incorporate social media for fear of liability, privacy and security breaches. But ignoring social media is not an option today. Healthcare brands must arm themselves with knowledge and procedures to effectively track, capture, and secure real-time social media content for record retention and audit purposes.
How do I use social media?
Social media allows communities to share real-time content across different platforms such as blogs, social networks, professional networks, video and photo sharing sites, online discussion forums, etc.
In order to leverage social media effectively you must:
- Create relevant content that engages your target audience. Patients and healthcare professionals actively use social media to share information, discuss healthcare policies, research treatments, symptoms, provider reviews and more. As a healthcare brand, it is critical you create high quality, reliable content that educates your audience. Contrary to evidenced-based medical reports, social media thrives on patient stories for collective medical knowledge. Personal stories, however, are vulnerable to misinterpretation. As a healthcare brand, you must be vigilant in monitoring content for quality control and accuracy.
- Educate your employees. The consequences for inappropriate social media use by healthcare professionals can be devastating to your brand reputation. Physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals are ambassadors of your brand and therefore must be provided specific guidelines for online professionalism.
According to a national survey, there was a high consensus that physicians should never post:
- Misinformation on physician practice websites
- Misleading information about clinical outcomes
- Use patient images without consent
- Misrepresent credentials
- Inappropriately contact patients using dating sites
- Violate patient confidentiality
The Mayo Clinic is a trailblazer in social media engagement in healthcare industry. In 2010, the Mayo Clinic established the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network (MCSMN) with the conviction that “individuals have the right and responsibility to advocate for their own health, and it’s our responsibility to help them use social networking tools to get the best information, and connect with providers as well as one another.”
The Mayo Clinic’s Social Media Network website offers a library of resources such as webinars, podcasts, discussion boards, events and dedicated tutorials on how to use social media for healthcare professionals. It also has a strong presence on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest. As a result, the Mayo Clinic has elevated its brand and reputation for excellence and innovation.
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