Getting involved with social media is like following through with a workout plan; in the beginning, the potential for big results fuel a gung ho attitude. As the days turn into weeks, bad habits creep in when the fruits of hard work are not as grand or immediate as expected. Similarly, organizations expect a lot out of social media. Its glamour and promises push companies to delve into its deep waters, but like all strong tools, a great reward only comes with hard work. Social media can work well when ingenuity and a long-term plan to realize benefits are employed—not boilerplate strategies.
Slow to pick up, the sluggish healthcare industry is beginning to use new communication mediums, such as social media, at an increasing rate; social media’s charm is not responsible. Pressure from competition is forcing healthcare’s engagement, or opponents may gain ground in the communications arena. Facebook and Twitter are entering the lexicon of more healthcare facilities every day, but studies show many hospitals do not use social media properly or enough. If healthcare organizations adapt to social media like other industries, will we better off?
Internet consumers, like you and I, seek out healthcare information online more than any other topic. Vast business opportunities exist for exposure strategy improvement through social media; brand awareness opportunities and fresh avenues to connect with prospective customers are increasing at organizations. Providing a rich set of tools and outlets, social media bolsters a patient’s autonomy by closing technical information gaps. Paradoxically, too many choices—similar services from different facilities—can lead to indecision. An overwhelming number of choices are leading consumers to choose doctors on family and friend referrals: those suggesting choices to others may base decisions on an organization’s openness in social media channels. Healthcare organizations can distinguish themselves by comparing their perceived quality to competitors—a valued category among customers—by using “success stories” and outlining new research. There is improvement, but organizations have a long way to go in coming up with creative listening and responding strategies to answer consumer needs.
Some organizations prefer to go the unique route; one attempt involves surgeons dictating surgeries real-time using webcasts, post proper patient consent. In one instance, while in the waiting room, a girl’s webcast surgery put her family’s concern over her well-being at ease. An inventive flow of fresh social media ideas and quenchless interest are not translating to full acceptance; many healthcare organizations remain cautious balancing consumer’s constant need for insight, preserving patient confidentiality, and wadding through unknown regulatory landscapes regarding the technology. In one case, a nurse posted patient x-rays on her Facebook page, unlike verbal communication, leaving behind an electronic footprint. There is also the possibility social media’s evolution in healthcare will constrict physical contact. Anyone submitting a resume on a popular job search engine knows what happens when technology takes hold and limits a process that once revolved around human contact. What about healthcare professionals? Soliant Health believes growing blog use can harm physician credibility in the eyes of consumers, if they post personal information and partial viewpoints.
Is more social media needed in healthcare? The short answer is yes, in moderation. Social media are technological soapboxes for healthcare organizations to announce their latest and greatest enterprises. It breathes life into a stale and lackluster campaign. I think there’s a human tendency to value new and shiny—such as social media—over previous methods. There’s no doubt that social media will help healthcare organizations tune into their demographic, but those old marketing tools still prove their effectiveness. Focusing all an organization’s advertising and marketing energy into experimental technology—it has only been around for 15 years and popular for around five—and forgetting about traditional marketing, will likely end in disaster. Balance is important between proven techniques and innovative ideas. Social media is the future, but not the whole equation for providing the consumer with information to help make better decisions.
Lazarus, Fell, and Daniel Ian. “Innovation or Stagnation? Crossing the Creativity Gap in Healthcare.” Journal of Healthcare Management. 56.6 (2011): 363, 367. Print.
ECRI Institue. “Social Media in Healthcare.” Healthcare Risk Control System November 2011.Supplement A (2011): 3,5,6, 8-10. ECRI Institute Issues New Guidance on Social Media in Healthcare. Web. 15 Feb. 2011.
Bradford, J. (2009, November 04). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://blog.soliant.com/healthcare-news/effects-of-social-media-on-healthcare/