Who Is Using Social Media In Healthcare?

Social media is permeating our personal and professional lives everywhere you look—even in the healthcare industry. As more hospitals, clinics, doctors and medical staff are joining social media platforms, it is imperative that healthcare providers have a comprehensive social media policy in place. Don’t have a policy in place yet?  Looking for some motivation?

Recent research shows that, of the 5,754 registered hospitals in the United States, 21% of them are actively using social media. That’s one out of five hospitals promoting and potentially engaging with the public and patients on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and YouTube.  Facebook is by far the most popular social media choice with 87% creating a brand page and encouraging people to “like” them.  

Coming in second with 77% of hospitals is Foursquare, the social site that lets you “check in” to places to see who else is there and what they have to say about it. Twitter, the other social media golden child, is used by two-thirds of hospitals who tend to tweet about upcoming events, encourage wellness checks and screenings as well as provide helpful links and information to common ailments and conditions.

Healthcare organizations are getting creative with their use of social media as well. While marketing, brand and reputation management are staples of their social programs, employee and clinical trial recruitment, education initiatives and patient monitoring are also in their repertoire. 

But what about the physicians? While 87% of them use social media for personal use, only 67% report using it for professional purposes. The AMA has provided guidelines advising physicians to keep “appropriate boundaries of the patient-physician relationship” suggesting they “consider separating personal and professional content online.” And that’s a good thing because, according to a Global Institute for Emerging Healthcare Practices report, one out of three physicians surveyed disclosed that a patient had tried to connect with them on Facebook and one-quarter of physicians accepted the friend request.  

With the potential risks around privacy, security and ethics breaches, it is critical that healthcare providers proactively implement policies before something happens. Policies protect not only the reputation of the business, but the privacy and rights of the individuals and the patients, too. If you haven’t created your policy yet, you are not alone. Forty-five percent of healthcare organizations surveyed reported having no policy in place. 

To help get you started, here are a few social media policy must-haves to include in your social media policy:

  1. Be responsible for what you write—your organization and its representatives need to take responsibility for what they write, and exercise good judgment and common sense.
  2. Be authentic—encourage employees to include their name and, when appropriate, organization’s name and title.
  3. Consider your audience—remind employees that online readers include current/future/former patients, colleagues and vendors, so they should take care to not alienate any of those groups.
  4. Understand the concept of community—a community is the idea of supporting others, and in turn, others supporting you. Employees need to understand the importance of balancing personal and professional information and the important role that transparency plays in building a community.
  5. Respect copyrights and fair usegive proper credit where it is due.
  6. Remember to protect confidential and proprietary informationtransparency doesn’t mean employees can share anything. Be clear about what is and isn’t appropriate to share.

If you need some help getting started there are plenty of resources available, beginning with this online database of 195 social media policies. Don’t let fear, uncertainty and doubt expose your organization to risks that are easy to mitigate.

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3 comments about "Who Is Using Social Media In Healthcare? ".
  1. Jessica Estremera from DIgital Pulp , April 10, 2012 at 1:45 p.m.
    These are very useful tips to encourage healthcare professionals to engage more with patients and partners. In the world of social media there can be a thin line between what is appropriate and what can cross the line. If more hospitals realize the added effects of having one of their top cardiologists tweet useful tips and health benefits than maybe more healthcare professionals will follow in their footsteps. I think people who follow doctors on twitter and their followers should understand that this does not substitute medical intervention and diagnosis.
  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , April 10, 2012 at 2:11 p.m.
    Do your really think top docs have time to twit when they don't have enough time to take on more desperate patients ? Hospitals/medical centers/doctors who want to twit should appropriate additional funds for professional twitters who send out only general messages. If some employers get a whiff of illness of their employee or employee family members may set off signals of first to leave. The employee may never know why and in at will states, they have no rights to know. Your best companion at work can pass on info very easily. Lose you job, lose your insurance.
  3. Erick Kinuthia from MDwebpro , April 10, 2012 at 3:06 p.m.
    Great topic. Doctors should not find excuse in not finding time to twit or engage on social media. Instead they should find someone to market for them. That way they will be sure to add value to. Erick Kinuthia Team MDwebpro