Just my two cents

Musings on social media and the world as I see it

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Mom & Dad celebrating their 60th anniversary.

Mom & Dad celebrating their 60th anniversary.

I recently took my dad to a doctor’s appointment. There were many other patients there; the waiting room was almost full.

I checked my dad in with the receptionist, gave his insurance information and paid the copay ($35 – astronomical price for an 86-year-old with several health issues on a fixed income… but I digress). I asked the receptionist how long a wait. I was told about a half hour. I then took a seat at the opposite end of the waiting room because there was no seat near my parents.

As the time approached one hour in the waiting room, I could see my dad getting annoyed and personally I was getting anxious. I got up, went to the receptionist and said,”I know there are a lot of people here, but we’ve been waiting almost an hour now. Can you tell me how much longer?”  “You’re next,” was the reply.  Hard to believe that after you were originally told it would only be a half hour wait.

A gentleman seated on the side of me told me that he had been there with his friend since 10:00 a.m. It was now 11:55 a.m.  At 12:09 they called my dad in, after a 1 hour and 12 minute wait. He was out again in 28 minutes.

What is wrong with this scenario? Two big things, in my humble opinion.

1 – Making a senior citizen pay $35 for a copay for a doctor’s visit is just outrageous. Most seniors today are living on a small, fixed income. Mine is no exception, and in fact, his income has gone DOWN. You see my dad is receiving a pension for serving as a police officer in a city that went bankrupt, so his pension was cut. How can insurers justify this kind of copay for this population? It’s unfathomable to me.

2 – It seems that no one else’s time is valuable, except the doctor. Apparently it’s perfectly acceptable for a doctor’s office to book four patients all at the same time and then make them sit there and wait, and wait, and wait. To wait for more than double the time that you spend with a doctor is an insult.

Now I have worked in health care my entire adult life. I know there are good people who work within the health care industry, who are committed to caring for people. I also know there are those who are trying to change things and trying to create a system that works for everyone. But clearly we have a long way to go, just based on this small experience.

It’s symbolic of what has happened to the health care system. It’s become more about business and less about the patient. Doctors are forced to book as many patients as possible in a day to bill as much as they can because the insurers are only going to pay a portion of that bill. It seems to be a vicious cycle that is based more on money than on actually caring for people.

It all makes me sad, and a bit jaded, against an industry I so believe in. It’s a vital industry, and literally saves lives, and yet that human side is often forgotten. It’s become too complicated, too business like. And the people, like my dad, are left waiting for hours to just receive a big bill in the end.

It’s time to fix the system.


Why people use social media as their personal soapbox and why hospitals should care

business man with laptop over head - mad

Years ago, when someone was unhappy about a product or service, the response was typically to call a customer service department or write a letter to the editor. Of course they also complained to family and friends – and that word-of-mouth bad advertising went a long way.

Today, social media gives people a powerful voice to share their thoughts, good or bad, about any topic under the sun, and be heard like never before.. Think about that. One person behind a keyboard or with a smartphone in his or her hand has the potential to be heard by millions of people around the world. It sort of boggles the mind when you think about it, doesn’t it?

So with that potential reach, it’s no wonder that when someone is disgruntled, they’re heading to their favorite social media networks to post a complaint, a photo or a video showing bad service or poor judgment (think Dominos pizza) by employees. It’s the place to go to complain, unless, of course, you’re in the “business” of social media. Then you might think twice about it as I recently did.

Just a few weeks ago, my dad was hospitalized in a very scary 10-day stay at a hospital. That hospital is part of the health system for which I work AND manage its social media. Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad Dad was there and received the care he did and is now home. The doctors and staff were wonderful, but there were some things that just didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked.

Being an employee, I knew who to call to talk about it. But if I wasn’t, I probably would have taken to social media to make a comment or two. Then I thought of the many patients and their family members who find themselves in a hospital each year. According to the CDC statistics, more than 35 million people are hospitalized every year. The statistics here show that about 54 percent of people are on social networks. That means almost 19 million of those people are using social media. How many of those 19 million people do you suppose would know who to contact in a hospital if they weren’t happy about their care?

In this day and age, the chances that a disgruntled and unhappy patient will take to social media to vent and be heard are pretty good. We know people want to be voice their opinions, especially when it comes to their health, and what they see as bad care.  Think about the bad advertising that can result from those posts. Think about the potential reach of those social postings. It’s no wonder that people are hopping on their social media soapboxes to complain when they’re not happy with their hospital care.

Now let’s remember this: out of a total of 5,724 hospitals in the U.S., only 1,501 are using some form of social media. That’s only about 26 percent of hospitals. (There’s an interesting infographic here on how hospitals are using social media these days, and of course there’s the big list of hospitals on the Mayo Clinic Social Media Health Network.).

Those negative comments can certainly impact your hospital’s reputation and brand image. After all, word of mouth advertising is very strong. When it comes from friends or family, it’s even stronger. The 26 percent of hospitals using social media might catch those negative posts and complaints, and then be able to respond and do something about it to reverse potential damage to the brand. If they’re NOT in social media at all, then there’s no chance of responding. Let’s just hope the post, photo or video doesn’t go viral.

When you think of it in these terms, it’s easy to see why hospitals, and any brand in any industry, must consider being part of today’s social networks. How do you deal with unhappy patients/customers on your social networks?

(This post was originally written for and was published on http://www.hospitalimpact.org on 8/15/2013.)

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The world needs more doctors like this

apple stethescopeI love my job because every day I must browse through all kinds of news and information from a variety of sources. Mostly it’s to stay up to date on hot topics in health and technology. The health side is for posting things on social media for work. The technology is so I can try to stay on top of my game. As I was going through emails and news items recently, I came across a headline I found intriguing. I had no idea it would lead to this blog post.

I’ve been in healthcare communications for over 25 years. In that time, I’ve met more doctors than I can count. Doctors are just like ordinary people, because, well, they ARE people. They all have their own personality traits. Some are more approachable than others. Some are a bit less humble. Some are always right and should never be questioned. Like I said, just like ordinary people.

And then there are the doctors who learn a lesson that makes them into an even better doctor. I was introduced to Dr. Peter Attia thanks to the headline, “Is the obesity crisis hiding a bigger problem?” I’ve decided the world needs more doctors like him.

The video from a Ted Talk is a little long, but so worth watching. In it, Attia talks about how he held a patient in “such bitter contempt” because she was overweight and diabetic. He never “questioned the conventional wisdom,” as he explains. Years later the tables turned. Suddenly he was the patient, suffering from metabolic syndrome, despite eating right and exercising.

That experience led him to rethink everything he had been taught and believed in as that conventional wisdom and the science behind nutrition, exercise and obesity. Now, he’s fighting all that conventional wisdom about obesity. He believes it may actually be the symptom of a bigger problem that is not apparent at first glance. That’s especially true when a doctor attributes obesity to being the patient’s own fault, as he once did.  It has all led him to new research on obesity and diabetes, and I just sense it will prove to be a major finding and turn the medical field upside down at some point soon.

What got to me most of all, though, is how emotional he got when discussing that night and that patient so many years ago. He’s incredibly remorseful because he feels that patient did not get the compassion she so deserved — that same compassion he showed other patients.

I can think of some doctors who could use a little lesson in humility, and compassion. It might make them better doctors, and better people too.

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A social community comes together to support one of its own – Liz Strauss

communityWhen a friend, relative or someone in your community is ill, you often hear of or attend fundraisers to help with medical bills. It’s nothing new, and it’s understandable. But today I was amazed at the power of the social media community.

I happened to be browsing through my tweet stream between posts for work when I saw this tweet from Brian Solis:

brian s tweet

I had no idea what this was all about, so of course I had to follow the link. Apparently some well known folks in the social sphere are coming together to donate items for an auction. Some of them are donating consulting time, others are donating collections of books, and other items. It’s all to serve as a fundraiser for Liz Strauss, who is “reclaiming her voice from throat cancer.” In case you don’t know her, Liz is a thought leader, an amazing blogger and founder of SOBCon. You can read more about her here.

Now I clearly don’t run in the same circles as these folks. Many are well known speakers, authors, or bloggers, and they probably all know each other because of what they do. But I’m willing to bet that if it wasn’t for social media, these individuals probably would not have met. And while I’m not a gambler, save for the occasional visit to the slot machines, I’m also betting on the fact that this fundraiser would not be happening without social media.

We can easily become disenchanted by the world of social media. People may not be who they claim to be, there is no scarcity of rudeness or swearing, accounts are hacked, and people are publicly shamed for something they may or may not have done purposely.

And then there’s this. People coming together to support someone that they probably would not know, and may never have met in person were it not for this electronic thread that binds us together. And it’s a testament to the goodness in people, to stand up and come to the aid of someone in their community who needs help. 

Liz will probably get more help than she ever would have were it not for the kindness of strangers who are learning about her situation. Her story is reaching so many more people through the wide net that is being cast through each of these donors’ own communities. It’s amazing when you think about it, and it makes me happy to know that I’m a small part of something so big that can do something so good. 

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Another day, another tragedy?

Photo from Wikipedia.

Photo from Wikipedia.

Is it just me, or does it seem like lately we’ve been hit with one tragedy after another? Today, we awoke to the total devastation in the town of Moore, Oklahoma, after a nearly 2-mile wide tornado swept through, leaving it in total ruin.

Because I had to be at an early morning panel discussion on the use of social media, my normal routine was way off. I did not see the morning news, or tune into Twitter or Facebook first thing this morning. When I finally did get to social, I find myself asking if people are becoming immune to these tragedies.

From my streams and newsfeeds, it seems that so many people were basically sticking to their own agendas. I even looked through the tweet stream of hospitals across the country and was shocked and slightly appalled to see that many were just carrying on with business as usual.

Is it just me? Am I being overly sensitive? Am I wrong to think that we need to be a little more respectful in the social sphere and acknowledge what is going on? Is it inappropriate to step away from our self-serving agendas for even a day? I know I’ve posted about this before, right after the Boston bombings. But for some reason, it seems like less attention is being given to the countless number of victims of Mother Nature’s latest wrath in Oklahoma than tragedies in the past, and I’m not sure why.

Even my hometown paper, the Providence Journal, apparently didn’t think Oklahoma was Page One news. Seriously? This has been called one of the worst tornadoes of all time. Families lost children, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles… not to mention those who were wounded, and all of their possessions gone. Of course possessions can be replaced, but people can’t.

I am saluting the amazing folks at @NormalRegional who in the midst of their own tragedy are tweeting and posting important updates to their Facebook page to help people find their loved ones, to direct moms-to-be as to where they can deliver their child, and other important information, from a hospital that was leveled, by the way.

And yet the rest of us go on tweeting about Lasik surgery (really?) and “want to make your hot body hotter?” (I kid you not.)

Maybe it is just me, but I choose to be respectful of what people are going through and put aside the company’s social media marketing efforts FOR ONE DAY in favor of supporting our fellow man. If that seems silly to you, then maybe I’m in the wrong business. (And I must add in here that I’m so grateful to have a director who is of a like mind and believes that we need to show a little respect during times of tragedy. Phew.)

But in this writer’s opinion, showing sympathy for your fellow man and trying to understand their plight during a difficult time will speak more loudly for your brand than any other tweet or Facebook post you might want to put out there. Do you agree or am I alone in this thinking?

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What a difference 10 years makes – the evolution of hospital crisis communications

old fashioned telephoneLike the rest of the world, I was in utter amazement as the story of the Boston Bombings played out, and it’s something I can’t stopping thinking about. I can’t imagine what the victims and their families have been living through since it happened, and all the recovery time still ahead of them.

In the aftermath, I can sit back and think more clearly from a professional point of view. The first thing that comes to mind is what those media folks were experiencing at the Boston hospitals. I totally understand. They were inundated with media trucks, media calls, reporters wanting answers to a myriad of questions, assignment desks calling for constant updates on patients, requests for interviews, and the list goes on and on. Then of course there’s the need to keep the public informed, and that’s when each hospital’s social media efforts came into play.

I think they did an absolutely phenomenal job in as difficult a situation as any we experience in this line of work. I recently came across a great article that speaks to the communications efforts by these three hospitals, and it warrants sharing, as do the kudos that these hospitals deserve.

It was this same article that brought me back 10 years to the horrible nightclub fire in West Warwick, R.I., at The Station. I was 10 years younger, and I have to admit, a lot greener about crisis communications.. I had only been working for the hospital for a year and a half when the fire happened. And while I am very lucky to be among the few in Rhode Island who was not personally impacted by it or knew someone who was, it is an experience I will never forget.

Of course those times were very different. Back then we relied on phones, faxes and emails to share information. What a difference social media would have made that night, and for the many weeks afterward, when we had patients at our major trauma center in Rhode Island. We received 63 patients that night. And many of them were critically injured and required care for long periods of time.

We were flooded with national and international media outlets, all following one of the worst fires in history, and one of the biggest stories to ever come out of Rhode Island. There were so many things about that night that could have been done differently if social media existed.

Families would have known immediately if their loved ones were safe or among the missing. As a hospital, we could have posted information immediately as it happened, with updated numbers of patients and conditions. We could have posted information for families on where to go when arriving at the hospital and resources for them to help in the aftermath, and even connect families who were experiencing the same things. The media could have turned to our social feeds for regular updates. The speed and immediacy of our communications response would have been drastically increased with today’s technology.

None of us ever want to experience a crisis, especially of the magnitude of the Boston bombings and The Station fire. But personally, I’m glad we have social media now to help us better communicate when we do experience them. I don’t think we can appreciate enough the increased power, reach and flexibility it provides us with, especially in a crisis situation.

Does/has your hospital use social media during a crisis, or do you plan to in the future? How?

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

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Pinning for success… why hospitals need Pinterest

Pinterest_LogoJust over a year ago, I wrote a post about Pinterest. I presented some stats, accolades and examples of how it was being used.

At the time I wasn’t a big fan, and I didn’t really see the value of it for hospital marketing.

In that post I wrote, “Now, granted, I’m a newbie at this whole pinning thing. But first impressions for me are lasting ones. With that said, I’m really not seeing the kind of interaction with others that you can have with Twitter and Facebook. There doesn’t seem to be any way to really connect with someone or have a conversation.”

A year later, I have to admit I’m hooked. I am completely, utterly addicted to this little network of pins and pictures and recipes and fitness tips and motivational pictures. Why? Because it’s so easy to use and share GREAT information that supports your mission.

Now I’m not completely eating my words from last year. I still agree with my initial impression that you don’t really interact with people like other networks. What I missed on first glance is the beauty of its simplicity–it’s a simple way to share important information visually.

The biggest point, though, is it results in more traffic to websites than LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube combined. So if you’ve got great information on your website that no one is seeing, try pinning it and see what happens.

Since December I’ve launched pages for three of the partners within our organization–a mid-sized academic medical center that specializes in weight management and bariatric surgery among other specialties, a children’s hospital and a women’s medicine practice.

We’ve got boards about us and our programs/specialties (which of course tie to the marketing priorities) and for health news, recipes, exercise tips, inspiration and motivation, children’s safety tips, holiday tips, seasonal health info and more. Each day we share things that are timely, topical and helpful for our audiences, or just plain fun. We also “repin” a lot from the folks who we are following.

We’ve been getting lots of repins and likes, so that’s a good thing. And there’s always the question of how to measure success. Google Analytics can be used to measure how many click-throughs you get to your site, and you also can use some of these online tools or use PinPuff for a quick overview of your account and an overall score.

Personally, I really like PinReach. It gives you great information on followers, pins, repins and more, along with an overall score so you can see how you compare to other users. You can quickly and easily see your activity and how you’re doing and, most importantly, what resonates most with your community.

Then you can focus your time more on those boards. My bet would be healthy recipes, inspirational and motivational quotes and “cute” things! The more repins and followers you get, the higher your score goes.

Also of note, on Tuesday Pinterest announced on their blog that it would be offering its own analytics for Pinterest accounts that have a verified website. If you don’t know how to do that, just follow these directions.

This should be “pintastic” because not only can you get info on likes and repins, but it will also easily give you the stats to how much traffic your own website got as a result of your Pinterest activity–all in one easy dashboard. If your website is verified, you’ll be able to get analytics dating back to Nov. 1, 2012. If your website is NOT verified, then the analytics will begin once you get that set up.

A word of caution–Pinterest can be a HUGE resource on your time because of its addictive powers! But if you’re using social media to promote your hospital, remember that Pinterest is a powerful competitor in social networks. Last July, Forbes said it could be the next social media giant.”

It’s the third largest network right now behind Facebook and Twitter in terms of active users, and it’s probably something you should consider.

Right now it has 12 million users and that number is growing daily. It’s largest demographic is women, clearly a target audience for hospital marketers.

You also can check out some great Pinterest pages from other hospitals like Baylor, Nationwide Children’s and Akron Children’s. They’re doing some really great stuff on their Pinterest boards.

Just like Twitter and Facebook, if you’re not using this virtual pinboard to connect with your audience, you’re being left behind.

So, are you using Pinterest in your social media toolbox? If not, is it something your hospital is considering? Happy pinning!

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