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7/12/2012
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Healthcare Social Media: Time To Get On Board

Many hospitals and practices still hesitate to jump on board the social media bandwagon. Here's some practical advice to guide your organization through the decision process.
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Social media can benefit healthcare providers, but there's also a dark side to be aware of. Frankly, it can ruin people's reputations, says John E. Steiner, Jr., chief compliance officer for Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Steiner points out that HIPAA has a criminal provision because people have been known to hurt other people by blasting libelous and defaming information on social media sites.

From a practical standpoint, Steiner said that a healthcare organization's legal exposure grows as the number of social media channels proliferate to include blogs, websites, emails, instant messaging, text messages, chat rooms, statements to the media, and any other forms of communication that may appear in the future.

He stressed the importance of having a social media policy in place so healthcare employees have some kind of guidance. When a hospital, for example, issues a PDA or a laptop to its employees, they are using property that's provided to them by the company and, as a result, they need to follow company policies when they are using that type of technology, Steiner said.

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Tim Pacileo
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Tim Pacileo,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/18/2012 | 5:13:53 PM
re: Healthcare Social Media: Time To Get On Board
Social Media is a real game changer for most healthcare marketers, but not in the sense that many of us think of when it comes to social media benefits. Social Media actually impacts the cultural and lifestyle of the hospital marketer which in turn drives this reluctance to change.

Once a hospital goes live with social media it's no longer about pushing out messaging and developing campaigns in a 9-5 setting. When a hospital goes "live" with social media they can't turn it off, it runs 7 X 24 X 365 in real time. Someone needs to monitor the sites and be able to respond to inquires as the expectations from the users are to have quick responses to their messages. If there are negative comments on the social sites many of the hospitals have not even thought about how to respond. In fact I heard comments such that "If we don't go social then we don't have to worry about it". Clearly this is a flawed approach as we know people will post their comments on other sites and in most cases the hospital will not be aware of the comments, until the press or some other entity brings it to their attention. It's much better to have the sites up and listen then it is to get blindsided.

As for the security and HIPAA concerns, again I am not seeing many hospitals with social media policies in place and they need to have them even if they have not set up their corporate sites. Any hospital employee, nurse and/or physician that is active on a social media site should be following the guidelines and policies of the hospital, but if these don't exist they actually put the hospital at risk and in some cases the employee, nurse or physician are at risk as well both personally and professionally. In one quick example a nurse who was very active on her social media site had a patient who would not ask her for a data in person, found out on her Facebook page that she was single and asked her out on Facebook. Having the proper policies in place could have prevented this from occurring.

Nest we have an accountability concern because everything in the digital world can be managed, monitored and modified for ROI. It's not like in the good old days when one sent out thousands of postcards and hoped for a 2% response rate, or they ran an ad and if it didn't get the results they ran the same ad again. In the online world you can run an ad for a few days and if it's not working, you can change it on the fly to improve the results or re-target it to a different audience. There is much more flexibility tied to these solutions to drive better results and more impact for the brand and there also is more work because of it.

Today the online world of marketing is disrupting how many of the hospital leadership teams and supporting marketing teams promote their brand or services/specialties and they are not thoroughly convinced that online marketing will drive the benefits they seek, despite all the information and statistics to support this transition. There is also the concern of even more transparency and accountability and a new set of tools and solutions not just in social media but in digital marketing, mobile marketing and Big Data that all impact hospital marketing.

Social media and online marketing are gaining momentum and growing in importance to the healthcare marketer. It's not too late to get on the train and embrace the change, but you need to be able to move quickly as this change is accelerating.

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