[Note: This is the first part in a four-part series about the potential that social media holds for physicians and health care professionals.]
The concept of hospitals engaging in social media is fairly new. Institutions like The Mayo Clinic and Children’s Hospital of Boston are using social media to make connections with patients, parents and the community. If you’re a healthcare organization and looking to jump into the mix, we’ve got a few tips for you to get the ball rolling!
1. Create an online identity. This first step seems logical but the data shows that many hospitals have yet to do this. Establishing an online identity by creating profiles on various social networking sites still scares away many hospital administrators.
There are currently 5,975 hospitals in the United States according to the American Hospital Association (AHA). Ed Bennet’s blog “Found In Cache” states that only 906 of these hospitals are currently utilizing social media in their integrated marketing efforts. That’s means only 15.1% of hospitals are using social media! If you’re lacking an online presence, start by creating a Facebook page, a Twitter handle, a YouTube Channel and a Flickr page.
2. Google Your Hospital and It’s Doctors. Hopefully you have Googled your healthcare organization. But, have you Googled the doctors that work at your healthcare organization? If not, you might be surprised by the results!
There are several sites such as HealthGrades.com, Vitals.com and RateMDs.com where patients can rate their doctors. If doctors associated with your organization have bad reviews or comments that need to be addressed, you should be monitoring and responding to those comments.
3. Get Your Hospital Listed on Ed Bennet’s List. If you’re not familiar with Ed Bennet, he is the keeper of the all-encompassing “database.” His website lists how many United States hospitals are utilizing social media. The site is broken down by hospitals that are using YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and FourSquare.
Once you’ve created your online identity, make sure your organization is listed on his site.
4. Encourage Physicians to Sign Up for Sermo.com. Sermo.com is the largest online physician community in the U.S. Those who register to use the site must be an MD. This website allows physicians to collaborate on difficult cases and exchange observations about drugs, devices and clinical issues. This site also allows doctors to engage in other conversations and it serves as a recruiting tool for your hospital.
5. Launch an Internal Blog to Communicate With Employees. Once you’ve completed the first four steps, you will need to get all employees involved! To do so, set up an internal blog and make it easily acceptable for them to view during work hours. Employees will be the front line of your social media efforts and they will need to know their boundaries and expectations.
What other recommendations can you share?