Hey Hospitals, Patients Are Looking For you Online!

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The potential for social media to impact and improve healthcare is staggering. This is especially prominent now that consumers are stepping up and confirming that a healthcare providers online presence will impact their decision to seek care with them.

Benefits of Social Media for Healthcare Organizations

If hospitals utilize social media for their marketing benefits alone, the impacts would be substantial for them. But imagine if healthcare organizations were to truly embrace social media, engaged their audiences, and offered valuable knowledge and resources for the communities they serve. Because as much as I understand that ultimately healthcare is a business, we cannot forget the duties we have to those that we serve. Nursing is s service profession. We work to serve others and improve the lives of others. Social media has the incredible potential to provide a great amount of service to huge audiences.

Elective Procedures Make Money

In addition to that, the most profitable procedures are always the elective ones. Patients have the opportunity to research their providers before they decide who will perform them and where they will be performed. So those with a greater, more engaged presence online are naturally going to get the bigger part of this business. Of course because they are more “cutting-edge”, and if you’re choosing to get cut, you want to get cut at a facility who’s up to date with technology, right?

If you’re a healthcare provider and if you’re smart, if you want to last, if you want to continue to be able to provide care, then you will cater to the needs of your customers. And your customers are begging you to engage them online.

Why Are They Afraid?

It likely stems from the multitude of examples of hospital employees getting online and being stupid. There are articles on top of articles that reference nurses, doctors, and other healthcare “professionals” who forget themselves (and HIPAA) and go online and share intimidate, identifiable details about specific patient encounters. For some reason, they think that putting it on Facebook isn’t the same as speaking it outline. That, or they simply don’t understand how much more damaging these online discussions can be because of their lasting effect. Once it’s written, it’s there forever. Even if your patients decide to Hop On Facebook and Review their nurse, think of how much good press could come out of that if you step up the plate and address the patient concerns, rather than running away from them?

Creating Social Media Policy for Healthcare

But this could be avoided if hospitals were upfront and adamant about their social media policies with their employees. It needs to be communicated to employees that if you in any way associate yourself with your healthcare organization online, then you need to maintain a professional image online. Just like you can’t go into Wal-Mart and cuss everyone out while you’re wearing your hospital name badge, you can’t go online and make an idiot of yourself on your Facebook profile when your employer is clearly defined. You also can’t talk about your specific patient encounters, period.

Even here on this blog, where I have explicitly avoided associations with my employer, I can’t just come on here and spout off profanities, complaints, and attacks about the work I do. Regardless of how upset I may get, I know it’s not professional or appropriate, so I just can’t do it. In addition to that, I have a responsibility to my patients’ to not allow them to lose any confidence in the care they are receiving.

Discussing nursing issues online is one thing, but attacking your employer, or violating privacy laws and trust is certainly another.

Social Media is “Cutting Edge”

But the article at Fierce Healthcare makes a valid point in stating that “57% of consumers said that as hospital’s social media connections would strongly affect their decisions to receive treatment.” Because a hospital that embraces social media can be seen as consumers as “Cutting edge.” It makes sense that people want to to go to the hospital that uses the most advanced technologies and forms of communication. Through the use of technology in healthcare we have prolonged our lives and improves our quality of life substantially.

Survey Says:

Some 25% of consumers have stated that they intend on making a connection with hospitals through social media in the future. And most of these people are women between the ages of 36-64 years old. So hospitals better start getting engaged, if they want to get paid since right now they are about the only people who can find jobs in this rough economy.

For more details from this survey, you can visit YouGov to read Consumers’ Use, Preference, and Expectations of Hospital Social Media. But the highlights are:

  • 57 % said that a social media connection with a hospital was likely to have a strong impact on their decision to seek treatment at that hospital.
  • One in four consumers said that they are likely to connect with hospitals in the future.
  • Those most likely to connect are women between the age of 36 and 64
  • 81% of consumers believe 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

Engage Your Potential Patients

Patients have a choice when it comes to determining who provides their healthcare. If you want to be seen as cutting-edge, and involved with your patients, then you need to suck it up and get online. You need to provide worthwhile content that drives consumers to you. You need to be a resource to the community and embrace your online image and reputation.

You need to be on social media and you need to do it right.

And to healthcare providers that may have the potential to make a fool of yourself online, kindly do all us professionals a favor and refrain from associating yourself with us. We don’t need the drama and certainly the bash to our profession. Our patients deserve better. We deserve better.

Be better.

Oh this Nerdy Nurse is definitely engaged in social media, so you should totally follow me on Twitter and fan me on Facebook!

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