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November 08, 2007


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» Social Media Comes to Hospitals from CCUCEO
David Meerman Scott has a post of portents (hopefully) to come: The Brave New Media World - social media for hospitals. In his post David shares some points from Larry Weber, Chairman, The W2 Group, and author of Marketing to [Read More]


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Susan Jameson

Do people really have social connections to a hospital? Would you choose to have a baby at a particular hospital because someone posted their baby picture on the hospital's web site? I think most people have a "social relationship" with their doctor or their health insurance plan, not the hospital. When you have needed a procedure, how did you choose the hospital? Most likely it was done at the place the doctor recommends or your insurance company told you to go to. My visits to the hospital's web site has been limited to driving directions and parking location.

Linda Patch

I have several different strands f thought about the first comment.

I do, indeed, think that people have social connections to hospitals. Many potential patients have predisposed notions about a certain facility, or personal positive/negative experiences. Particularly if an opinion or experience is positive, then I think social media can be very effective in helping to cement those opinions, and build the esteem and trustiworthiness of the institution in the eyes of the consumer. If a person's opinion is neutral, I think social media can redirect to a more positive POV.

If there is a lot of negative press about a hospital, or if a person has had a bad personal experience at the facility, then I wonder about the effectiveness of social media to change or mitigate that opinion. Probably unlikely.

I also think that feelings of social connectedess with a hospital are often latent. A dialogue through social networking can bring out these positive emotions making patients them feel better informed, and even better cared for.

David Meerman Scott

Susan and Linda,

Thanks for your comments. One thing I keep coming back to with any kind of authentic web marketing and communications, even with hospitals, is that it puts a human face on what can be a cold and faceless entity. What Paul Levy does is not so much market Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center as humanize the institution.

Cheers, David

Lorraine Thompson

Thanks, David--I’ve been waiting for a conversation on healthcare and social media.

I believe social media has huge potential for both patients and healthcare marketers.

Patients are already onboard with Internet use. When facing a scary disease, many patients head straight for their PCs, eager to ingest as much information as possible about their condition, treatment options and facility choices.

Most hospitals, however, have been slow to respond to patients’ hunger for relevant information and supportive conversation.

Hospital websites should be a starting point, incorporating easy navigation, patient-centric copy and loads of pertinent information.

Social media could take the patient-hospital relationship further: Physicians might use forums to talk with patients, medical colleagues, residents and interns.

Patient support groups could Twitter.

Nurses and patient advocates might bundle useful tags on Del.cio.us and create helpful You Tube-posted videos on pain and palliative care…nutrition…family dynamics of disease and more.

And of course, as Paul Levy excellently demonstrates, hospital administrators might lend a human voice to hospital management via blogs.

There are obstacles on the path to social media/healthcare nirvana: Hospitals move slowly, physicians tend to be conservative—and very busy—and HIPAA/ privacy issues complicate transparency.

Here’s hoping more healthcare leaders will follow Paul Levy’s brave example to tease out solutions.

James Greginaw

In regard to the "bonding" with a local hospital, and in support of the first commenter, even if you had a very positive view of a particular place (e.g. Beth Israel), if your physician is not on staff at that facility, you are unlikely to be able to use it for a procedure. I do agree that hospitals have an opportunity to be more than a "scary building" to potential patients but let's understand where healthcare decisions are made today, namely with the insurance company first and your doctor (approved by your insurance company) second. Perhaps the health insurance companies should be the "social connection" in healthcare :-)

Paul Chaney

I'm doing a one-day workshop with the Louisiana Hospital Association on the subject of social media and this post has come in real handy in terms of preparation. Thanks for posting it.

David Meerman Scott

My pleasure Paul. You might also check out my book.


David Roth

McKinsey recently sent me the results of study titled "A Better Hospital Experience." Among many other relevant points they note that, "On average, 20 percent of a patient's choice [of hospital] is based on a hospital's clinical reputation and, remarkably, 41 percent on nonclinical experience...A doctor's recommendation and the hospital's location are responsible for the rest [39%] of a patient's decision."

Of the nonclinical experience factors that stood out in the study, foremost was the patient's desire to be well-informed, e.g. be provided a counselor to help them understand medical terms, and being kept informed pre-, during and post-visit. The implied potential of digital technologies in this process is clear. However, interestingly, to the people surveyed, their preference for being kept informed is a decidely analog experience. They were not interested in being armed with web sites or other self-help resources; rather their yearning was for human interaction.

To the degree that patients perceive the blogs and podcasts of the Paul Levys and Elizabeth Traceys of the world as humanizing the hospital experience (as the original post suggests), social media might be providing early adopters with an influential differentiator. Slow movers are herewith forewarned: such innovations may soon be considered de rigueur by many of your best prospective patients.

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