Don’t Judge a Hospital by Its Facebook

Kelli Nowinsky

What are your expectations when you visit a hospital? Cleanliness? Close to your home? Good parking? The best doctors? Well for some it’s the social media efforts. Yes, you read that statement right. When I first read the results from this recent study from YouGov Healthcare, I will admit I was slightly shocked.

  • 57% of those polled said a social media connection with a hospital was likely to have a strong impact on their decision to seek treatment at that hospital.
  • And in fact, 81% of consumers believed that if a hospital has a strong social media presence, they are likely to be more cutting-edge, creating a halo effect across clinical functions.
  • One in four consumers said that they are likely to connect with hospitals via social media in the future

As the social media manager for Nationwide Children’s Hospital here in Columbus, I am not sure I would have drawn the same conclusion. Yes, social media can mean a hospital is definitely more connected to its patients and their families. It can even mean they listen more. Social media here at Children’s means educating our patients and families, assisting patients that need support, and providing a place to share with others the struggles of caring for a sick child. Social Media allows us to genuinely connect with people with caring and compassion.

Does a Facebook page that churns out quality content but only has a few thousand “likes” mean you are not the top priority when it comes to surgery, or treating certain conditions? I don’t think so.

According to Ed Bennett, 1,188 hospitals participate in social media. The American Hospital Association says there are 5,795 hospitals in the country. Are some of these hospitals not cutting edge? My guess is no. So the bottom line here is hospitals are still learning. In the ever-changing environment of healthcare, HIPAA rules, and the ongoing debate about patient and doctor relationships and social media, these are areas where hospitals need to tread lightly. It takes more time to launch social media channels, put in policies and create processes.

Picking a good hospital is one of the most important choices a consumer can make. My advice is to do a little homework before you choose a hospital, it will give you peace of mind. US News and World Report wrote about this and there is some good advice here.

With that being said, if the hospital participates, visit their social media sites. Go to their YouTube channel and watch videos on procedures and hear from their doctors. Check out their Facebook wall and see if anyone has posted remarks about their experience. Ask friends and family. Bottom line: when it comes to healthcare choices, make sure you are doing your due diligence and not basing it solely on a Facebook page.

In the end, survey’s such as this one should help us all in the world of healthcare social media better design our strategies to more effectively make the hospital and its services more accessible to the community.

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