Just my two cents

Musings on social media and the world as I see it

Some social media reminders for health care communicators

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Today, roughly 20 percent of the nation’s hospitals use social media. We’re there because that’s where our community is, and it’s a medium that allows us to communicate important health and wellness information and build brand loyalty and awareness, among other reasons. Of course, these are all things you’ve heard before. Unfortunately, using social media is not without risk. You’ve probably heard that before, too. But sometimes, we need reminders.

Last week, I received that reminder in the form of an email from our risk management department. It was passing along information from the ECRI Institute, a non-profit organization and evidence-based practice center dedicated to enabling improved patient care. ECRI recently issued a report, Social Media in Healthcare, which offers a great overview of healthcare and the social sphere.

For hospitals and healthcare organizations that have not yet entered social media, the report provides a wonderful overview and some good dos and don’ts. It also includes the American Medical Association’s Social Media Policy and information on privacy violations.

The report reveals that of the hospitals using Facebook, few are using it to its full capacity or potential, supporting the idea that social media can be a waste of time. Some hospitals did not even allow comments or photos to be posted on their walls. Personally, I wonder why a hospital would bother having a Facebook page that wasn’t open for comments, but I digress.

For hospitals that already are using social media, the report includes a section on managing content and responding to posts about your brand. This may be one of the biggest takeaways of the report: Does your organization have a plan for monitoring social media around the clock? If not, it should.

When we launched our social media efforts in 2009, this was not something we thought about. But as time went on, it became increasingly apparent that in social media, people do not want to wait days for a response to an inquiry. Likewise, if a negative comment about your brand is posted, do you want that out there for days without being addressed? We developed guidelines and protocols so that we monitor our brand 24/7/365. It’s a necessity, even though it may be difficult to manage given the resources within some healthcare organizations.

The report also talks about some of the many risks inherent in social media. I’m sure the statement that garnered the interest of our risk management folks was: “Risk managers should also be aware that information created or shared via social media could be subject to e-discovery in the course of litigation.” While I was aware of this piece of information, it tends to slip to the back of my mind;so  this report was a good reminder of the relevance of social media. The “once you tweet, it’s out there forever” idea can come back to haunt you, and has for so many brands.

The report ends with some clear recommendations for healthcare organizations to follow, including developing a plan, assigning individuals to social media, developing goals and identifying the appropriate social media tools to support those goals.

One of the recommendations is something I believe we should all be doing, if we’re not already: including social media in HIPAA privacy training for all staff. As I read this, I realized that it might be a good time to review our privacy policy and our patient consent forms to incorporate social media into them. When was the last time you reviewed yours?

I thought this report was really well done, and serves as a good reminder of some things we know, and some things we might have forgotten. I encourage other healthcare communicators to check out this report.

What other actions should we as healthcare communicators take to minimize our risks in the social media world?

This post was written for and originally published on www.hospitalimpact.org.

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Author: Nancy Jean

I love reading, writing, music, the beach, and being a mom to two rescue dogs. My job is social media for health care.

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