A new report from Hewlett-Packard Social Media Solutions claims hospitals put both their patients and reputations at risk by ignoring social media.
Risks of Procrastination
For all the positive benefits of social media, mitigating risk is perhaps the most compelling reason for healthcare organizations of all sizes to develop and implement a “social enterprise” strategy now, rather than later. Procrastination or “ignoring” social media brings its own risks, including:
- Risk to patients – Hospitals and other providers can help to reduce the potential for harm from misleading or wrong health information transmitted through social media by providing reliable information and/or educating patients and helping to guide them to reputable sites.
- Risks to reputation –By not monitoring social networks, providers are less likely to be aware of threats to their reputation in the virtual public sphere. Without an established social media presence, they are in a weak position to counter with relevant facts. In addition, patients increasingly look at which providers share information and are more transparent about their performance. Consumer Reports, which has emerged as a trusted source on hospital performance advises patients to “look for hospital ratings that include safety and error rates. If hospitals don’t report such information, patients should consider going elsewhere.”
- Liability /HIPAA– Without explicit social media policies, training, and governance, hospitals and other providers risk liability and violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Staff posting inappropriate information about patients—or doctors commenting on public forums—can be seen to compromise patient privacy or with offering medical advice—present serious liability and regulatory issues. Doctors and nurses have been fired for their poor judgment in posting comments or images where patients could be identified and their privacy was compromised.
Meet Patients Where They Search for Information
The white paper states that it is a hospital’s responsibility to meet patients where they are searching for health information—online—and provide patient education materials that are accurate and easy to understand:
“Hospitals and other providers can help to reduce the potential for harm from misleading or wrong health information transmitted through social media by providing reliable information and/or educating patients and helping to guide them to reputable sites.”
Not only does social media activity afford hospitals an opportunity to increase health literacy, but also positions them as experts in their specialized fields.
More people are using the Internet to research health information and read about the medical experiences of others (Pew 2013). Hospitals need to be on social media to know what their patients are saying about them—both positive and negative. Part of a good hospital marketing and public relations strategy is knowing and addressing what patients are saying about your healthcare system. Social media gives you an outlet into both.
The HP report shows that social media communities are an ideal way for hospitals to educate patients, increase their market reach and improve their reputation.
To view the white paper from HP, "Social Media in Healthcare," click here.
Other studies support the fact that social media use among hospitals and physician practices is on the rise. In a survey released by DocStyles, researchers examined five groups of physicians and their use of social media and other Internet-based communication technologies. Based on respondents’ reported technology use over six months:
- 80.6% used a portable device to access the internet;
- 59.1% used social networking sites; and
- 12.9% wrote a blog post.
While some physicians remain hesitant on adopting the use of social media, these communication tools have the potential to update the health industry’s approach to patient care, data sharing and medical exploration.
Rising Use of Social & Mobile Media in Healthcare
And in this infographic, shown below and created by Demi & Cooper Advertising and DC Interactive Group, key infographic takeaways for providers, medical practice administrators, and hospital marketers showed that:
- 41% of patients say that social media would affect their choice of a specific doctor, hospital, or medical facility
- 26% if all U.S. hospitals participate in social media
- 60% of providers say that social media improves the quality of care delivered to patients