How Practices Can Become More Social-Media Savvy

January 31, 2012

How can a practice take advantage of social media without suffering too many dire consequences? Experts dish advice.

Social media offers too many benefits to providers and patients to be ignored. So how can a practice take advantage of social media without suffering too many dire consequences? 

That was one of the key questions addressed by healthcare-industry panelists during today’s one-hour-long webinar “Can Healthcare Providers Afford to Ignore Social Media?” Panelists offered advice intended to help healthcare organizations become more social media savvy while avoiding common pitfalls.

So how do you get started?

Edward Marx, CIO of Texas Health Resources, said a healthcare organization’s first goal should be to establish a presence through a social media outlet, and then figure out how to establish patient engagement.

Healthcare organizations need to constantly monitor what is being said about them, added Ed Bennett, director of Web strategy for University of Maryland Medical Center.

“There’s a lot of different services out there that will monitor a set of search phrases that you set up so you can see what’s being said about you on Facebook or Twitter or one of hundreds of blogs,” said Bennett. “Starting with something like that will give you a sense of what your reputation is.”

And the larger your organization, the greater the level of negative remarks you’ll likely have to manage.

“A lot of hospitals who’ve yet to dip their toes in the [social media] water may be in for some shock,” said Marx. Today, his organization has a system of taking “immediate action” to respond to negative coverage, a process he called “service recovery” to ensure an unhappy customer who makes a negative remark via a social media outlet has a better experience in the future.

“We have a social media guideline/policy, and every employee has to take the training,” said Marx. “Everyone has to be tested on it and has to sign off on it.”

Just be sure that before you start contributing to the blogosphere (or Twitter-sphere) that you not only have a solid social media strategy, but that you are aware of the Internet’s permanence factor.

“I think you have to be careful about the fact that the stuff you contribute in social media has history,” warned John Glaser, CEO of Health Services for Siemens HealthCare. “It can come back in ways you don’t expect.”