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Rules of social media: Let your patients tell their stories.

September 24, 2013

    Hanna Jaquith, Daily Briefing

    One of the most compelling reasons for hospitals to use social media is because it allows organizations—of all sizes—to establish a personal relationship with patients. One of the best ways to do this is by telling meaningful, powerful patient stories.

    And hospitals don't have to look too far when seeking patients to celebrate. Social media and marketing experts tell the Daily Briefing that at the average organization, there's no shortage of inspiring stories to draw from.

    Case study: Mount Sinai Hospital

    For example, The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City recently highlighted the story of patient Ron Gardner on Facebook as Gardner underwent Deep Brain Simulation surgery for Parkinson's disease. The hospital shared pictures from BattlingParkinsons.com of Gardner before, during, and after his surgery.

    Rules of social media
    Monday: Define your audience
    Today: Let patients tell their stories
    Wednesday: Benefit with a blog
    Thursday: Master the metrics
    Friday: Sustain a conversation

    The photos evoked a huge outpouring of support. Gardner continued to interact with the site throughout his treatment, posting updates on his surgery and thanking all those involved in his care—surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, radiologists, and even the receptionist—for their "compassion and professionalism."

    During the campaign, Mount Sinai also continued to interact with Gardner, "liking" and responding to his posts—an engagement strategy that the hospital emulates across each of its media channels, according to social media director John Ambrose. "Using patient stories, we try and connect with as many people as we can," Ambrose says, adding, "We put a human face on health care in this way."

    Case study: MD Anderson

    Similarly, one of MD Anderson Cancer Center's most successful media campaigns was a music video called "Hold On," a song written by Greg Lizee, an associate professor of oncology. The video received "hundreds of comments, shares, likes, views—you name it," says MD Anderson's Laura Nathan-Garner, adding that the video was "unlike anything we've done before."

    "What we often hear is that when patients receive a diagnosis, they go online to find people with stories similar to theirs," Nathan-Garner says, adding that "a lot of times if they see that person has received treatment at MD Anderson, then, they will want to follow through and do the same thing."

    • How to Not Screw Up Your Next Website Project: Join Amy Levin, the Advisory Board's managing director for web strategy, on Monday, September 30, for a candid discussion of everything marketers and planners need to know about developing and improving your health system's presence online. Register for the webconference.

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