More than ever, it’s essential for hospitals and health providers to rethink their healthcare marketing mix to include social media.
The proof is in the numbers: 34% of consumers use social media to search for health information, according to research data from How America Searches: Health and Wellness.
While it’s easy to identify demand, many healthcare marketers are not exactly sure how they might tap into the social web to reach business goals. To help understand the possible applications, consider these five examples of how the social web can work for hospitals and others in the healthcare industry:
1. Tweet Live Procedures
In the past year, social media channels have helped open up an area of healthcare previously only available to a select few: the operating room.
Last February, Henry Ford Hospital became one of the first hospitals to Tweet a live procedure from an operating room. Doctors, medical students and curious non-medical personnel followed along as surgeons tweeted short updates on the kidney surgery to remove a cancerous tumor.
This healthcare marketing tactic can effectively create excitement and raise public awareness for a healthcare organization. In the case of the Henry Ford procedure, Twitter was abuzz that February day with users both re-tweeting the messages from Henry Ford and adding their own thoughts on the event. That buzz can help healthcare organizations both attract new patients and recruit medical personnel.
2. Train Medical Personnel
Some healthcare organizations are beginning to recognize the potential impact of leveraging social media channels to complement training efforts. Mayo Clinic Social Media Manager Lee Aase, for example, incorporated social media into a recent training presentation for local chapters of the American Heart Association. (Check out Lee Odden’s social media interview with Aase for Online Marketing Blog.) During the presentation, Aase leveraged Twitter to encourage participants to contribute to the discussion using the #AHAchat hashtag.
Weaving social media into healthcare training initiatives can provide multiple benefits, including:
- Giving trainees a forum to ask questions and quickly receive answers
- Providing presenters with immediate feedback from trainees (i.e., if trainees have mastered a concept of if more guidance is needed)
- Enabling organizations to complement healthcare marketing efforts by sharing slideshows, video or pictures from training sessions on social sites like YouTube or Flickr
3. Reach Mainstream Media
70% of journalists now use social networks to assist reporting, compared to 41% the year before, according to a Middleberg Communications survey reported by PRWeek. With numbers that high, it only makes sense for healthcare marketers to leverage social media channels in order to achieve coverage by both mainstream media and industry publications.
As part of healthcare marketing efforts, organizations can use social media channels – including blogs, forums and microblogs – to share success stories from out-of-the-ordinary operations or treatments, medical research or other significant achievements. For example, when Aurora Health Care tweeted a knee operation in April, it received significant media attention, both from mainstream media and industry publications including Good Morning America, the local Milwaukee public radio network and Hospital Management Magazine.
4. Communicate in Times of Crisis
When disaster strikes – whether it be a flood, an earthquake or a terrorist attack – hospitals and healthcare providers are at the center of it all. Healthcare providers can leverage social media networks to provide real-time updates both for those directly affected by the crisis and those watching from afar.
During the November Fort Hood shooting attack, Steven Widman of Scott & White Healthcare – one of the hospitals that treated Fort Hood victims, used Twitter to provide up-to-the-minute news. Through Twitter, Widman provided updates on emergency room access and hospital operation status, re-tweeted news from Red Cross and communicated with reporters.
Widman shared with Found In Cache Blog the results of the social media crisis communication efforts:
- Twitter followers increased 78% in just three days
- Scott & White Healthcare was listed on the front page of Twitter as a “trending topic”
- The hospital’s YouTube channel was ranked the 79th most viewed non-profit channel during the entire week surrounding the crisis
5. Provide Accurate Information to Patients
73% of patients search for medical information online before or after doctors visits, according to this video from the HealthCare New Media Conference. With the magnitude of health information available on the web – both accurate and inaccurate – it’s likely that these patients can easily be misinformed.
By integrating social media into the healthcare marketing mix, organizations can share accurate, timely information regarding symptoms, diseases, medications, treatments and more. Social sites like Inspire are providing a forum for patients to share their health problems and questions about treatments with other patients, as well as qualified medical personnel. Inspire, for instance, partners with trusted health nonprofit organizations to ensure information is accurate and its community is safe.
The benefits of integrating social media into healthcare marketing efforts are priceless – from improving patient care to gaining media coverage to attracting new patients and staff. If your healthcare organization hasn’t already taken advantage of social networking channels, now is the time. If you’re having challenges getting approval, check out “Social Media in Healthcare Marketing: Making the Case“.
How else can healthcare marketers leverage social media to complement their efforts?
It's really interesting to see the opportunity that's out there with social media, even (perhaps “especially”) in industries that have so many regulations around communication (i.e., HIPAA).
I would think that in situations like this, it helps to have a well-understood social media guidelines within the organization.
Michelle Bowles says
jlbraaten: I agree. Particularly for pharmaceutical organizations, it's vital to create a set of highly defined guidelines for social media — since FDA regulations regarding social media marketing aren't totally defined yet.
Jonathan Richman says
These are all good tactics. If you want to see about 250 examples of pharma and healthcare companies using social media, check out this list: http://bit.ly/11dBiH
That's an excellent collection of case studies Jonathan, thanks for the link.
Mark McCulloch Success Coach says
Fantastic examples of how social media can be used effectively.
I have been looking for a long time for such quality information.
Brett H. Pojunis says
I think this is great generally speaking, however, the security of our information plays a HUGE factor.
Maybe Twitter is kinda future health heplper. For ex. if you have a chip in your body which tweets to a hospital and when situation is critical, then a ambulance will be sended immideatly 🙂
You are maybe skiing somewhere and if something hapens and you cant call for help, then it will be a life saver 🙂
I think your examples are very good. Thank you for your impressions.
Rinaldi Syahran says
something that you post are helpful and useful information. Something new again that i learn, and it is about healthcare marketing that you post. Thanks anyway.
This post is a great example of how a traditional industry like Healthcare can create a business case for being social. Wonderful ideas being shared here.
I never really put too much thought into health care businesses using Twitter in that way. But these are great ideas. Thank you!
Health care is a very human topic. We all have only one health. Therefore I find it important to mediarize this topic and to use modern ways to communicate important health topics.
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Eduardo Barrera says
Thank you. I'm certainly looking for ways to distribute healthy information.
As a person who has successfully overcome fibromyalgia and then later
became involved in health care by becoming a Hanna Somatic Educator®…
which relatively few people have heard of let alone the process of
pandiculatio which is our birthright… you've given some great ideas
on how those of us in so-called alternative health… can contribute.
Jamie Verkamp says
Great insights in this article. As consumer driven healthcare becomes more prevalent, we're going to see even more ways that healthcare organizations can utilize social media to engage and interact with their patients.
Tweeting live procedures is so 2009. Most of its marketing value has long past. No one cares. The only reason it received any media coverage was because it had not been done before. It simply isn't NEWsworthy, anymore. You don't see Brian Williams lead his newscast with an Everest summit.
excellent case study…very good examples..!
excellent case study…very good examples..!