Social Media and Healthcare: Best Practices and Successful Case Studies

Many healthcare organizations have been slow or hesitant to embrace social media. This uncertainty stems from two key areas of concern: risk to privacy and security of patients; and a difficulty producing reliable, accurate content. While these are valid considerations, they shouldn’t stop healthcare professionals from exploring the potential of online social platforms.

The truth is, early adopters are already reaping the benefits. According to a survey by the Journal of Medical Internet Research:

60 percent of adults use the Internet to access medical information.
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Healthcare social media bright blue wave

Social media has become an integral part of how individuals navigate online information. This presents a clear opportunity for healthcare professionals to provide the public with accurate and trustworthy data.

Social media presents healthcare professionals and institutions the opportunity to:

  • healthcare-social-mediaEducate and engage with the public about healthcare issues.
  • Enhance patient access to services.
  • Create awareness.
  • Manage public relations issues.
  • Extend your network and stay connected with colleagues.

Here are some best practices for healthcare professionals looking to engage with social media in an industry-appropriate way:

  1. Edit & Review: Have a mandatory review process in place to avoid publishing inaccurate information. At least two pairs of eyes should see everything before it is posted.
  2. Date Everything: All posts should include a publishing date so that as newer research and information becomes available, it is easy to distinguish between the older and newer content. Many social networks date posts automatically, but be sure to check.
  3. Educate Employees: All employees should have a thorough understanding of social media policies. They need to know when they should and should not engage, and what information they are permitted to share.
  4. Know When to Take the Conversation Offline: Avoid discussing sensitive or personal issues with patients online, and redirect them to the appropriate channels to address these issues.
  5. Keep it Human: Where appropriate, share real stories of real people that your users can connect with. You can link to longer articles shared on your blog or website.
  6. Provide Useful Information: Educate your audience about their health and healthcare options.
  7. Share Images: Images get more engagement. Where possible, build images that tell your stories for you.
  8. Connect With Colleagues and Keep Tabs on Competitors: Connect at conferences, share ideas, and stay in touch. Keep up-to-date on how others are using the newest social technologies. Start by checking out the case studies below.


Case Study: Sunnybrook Hospital Live Tweets a Heart Surgery

sunnybrookOn the morning of February 20th Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto live-tweeted a bypass surgery to raise awareness about heart disease and demystify the operating room.

Throughout the surgery, the communications team shared photos, videos and information from inside the operating room. The surgical team also fielded questions from tweeters who were following along.

The event was an enormous success. Sunnybrook gained 5, 000 Twitter followers in just a few hours, and received international media coverage.


Case Study: Mayo Clinic

mayo-clinic-logo 2Mayo Clinic has set the standard of excellence for social media in the healthcare industry. They have established The Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media with the aim to use social media to improve health and well being for people everywhere, and to build relationships between patients and professionals.

They have achieved a huge audience with over 700, 000 Twitter followers, over 500, 000 Facebook fans, a significant presence on Google+ and Pinterest, and almost 3, 000 videos on their YouTube Channel. Their roster of blogs includes the Share Mayo Clinic blog, which has created a space for patients to share their own May Clinic experiences.

Mayo Clinic recognized the need for accurate health information online and has built a robust social media strategy to meet that need. Their social media empowers individuals to take control of their health and empowers doctors to share vital information.


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