Healthcare Providers Plug Into Facebook, Twitter, YouTube
The social media craze is creating new challenges and opportunities for the University of California San Francisco Medical Center and Mayo Clinic.
The clinic's major focus is on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
"We just mix and match those platforms; it's kind of like your four
basic food groups, you blend them in different ways," he said.
Mayo sees social media as an extension of word of mouth. "Word of mouth has been a crucial part of building Mayo's brand for more than a hundred years," Aase said. "People come here, have a good experience, go home and tell about it. We see social media as the 21st Century version of word of mouth. We're talking to the whole world, potentially."
Social media lets doctors help people in much greater numbers than
in-person treatments. "We can talk to one doctor on a video camera for
10 minutes, and put out information that helps thousands," Aase said.
For example, the clinic's most popular video is a 22-minute interview
with a doctor on the subject of Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia
Syndrome, a condition primarily affecting teenage girls frequently
misdiagnosed as simple depression or fakery. "For those patients that
are really craving this information, it's the kind of information they
couldn't get otherwise," Aase said. "We couldn't get 22 minutes on the
air from something like that--nobody would let us buy it."
Companies in the healthcare industry looking to use social media face a range of regulatory and ethical issues.
HIPAA compliance is the main concern for the Mayo Clinic. Patients are legally entitled to post information on their own conditions, but the clinic needs to get a consent form for interviews with patients about their stories. The middle ground is when a private individual posts a message about another person's condition. In that case, the Mayo Clinic removes identifying details so the information doesn't point back to a specific person.
"I wouldn't say we had huge obstacles, we just needed some soaking
time, to work it through and make the case," Aase said.
As the social-media savvy students now in medical school grow to
become doctors, administrators, and instructors themselves, the
medical profession will have to develop rules for using tools like
Facebook. But Cucina says he's confident that will happen.
"We had these same conversations 10 or 15 years ago about the
Internet. As the Internet became ubiquitous, people wrote articles
about whether medical groups should have Web sites, and whether
doctors should have e-mail. Now, it's taken for granted they should,"
Cucina said. "We understand boundaries," when to use encryption and
greater security to manage privacy, and that diagnoses and difficult
conversations shouldn't be communicated through e-mail. The same
understandings will develop for social media.
Cucina is in the forefront of developing those rules—he's teaching a class, called, "Blogs, Tweets, and Facebook: What the Hospital and Medical Administrator Needs To Know," in October in San Francisco as part of a continuing education program that doctors are required to take to keep their licenses.
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