The number of health care social media sites has increased steadily over the past decade. According to the Mayo Clinic's Social Media Network, more than 1,600 U.S. hospitals are using nearly 5,000 social media sites. Social media is widespread enough within the health care industry that discussions centered on social media's "potential" have now shifted to focus on best practices and successful strategies.
Social media can be a great tool for evolving an information ecosystem. For instance,these sites can help health care organizations develop deeper partnerships and communication channels with patients, families, physicians, staff, and communities. With social media, providers can observe and predict health trends, identify thought leaders, detect and respond to specific feedback (e.g., a patient complaint), position their organizations for crisis response, and keep their finger on the digital pulse of the industry. Social media can also be used internally for workforce planning, recruitment efforts, and staff education.
Implications for the CIO
Although social media is typically managed within the marketing department, CIOs should be aware of the value that social media offers and participate in forming an appropriate enterprise strategy. That strategy should include both a social media plan and effective use policies.
Social media is an established channel for patient insight, and to ignore it is to miss out on a wealth of information and communication.
While in the past hospitals may have relied on surveys or other campaigns to reach their audience, social media platforms can magnify these efforts to offer new perspectives or supplemental data, such as for population health management or consumerism initiatives. That's where the CIO can also play a major role: Large-scale or sophisticated social media efforts will call for IT systems that can utilize machine learning, natural language processing, and predictive analytics to extract useful insights, reduce "data noise," and forecast health and operational trends.
To best leverage social media, IT leaders should:Be proactive in the organization's social media strategy.
CIOs should become trusted advisors to their executive peers and initiate discussions about using social media as a business tool (along with groups like human resources or dedicated social media teams). It's useful to have social media champions set the example and show this is an area worthy of investment and innovation.Focus your efforts.
IT leaders should avoid starting out with broad social media strategies that try to reach "anyone, anywhere." Instead, begin with small projects or select social media platforms to better evaluate and assess progress. Some health care organizations may pick one or two platforms (such as Facebook and Twitter) to execute well on, instead of trying to have a presence across all social media platforms.Continue to monitor and improve your platform(s).
Health systems need to develop a methodology to measure the effectiveness of their social media strategy, whether it is with qualitative "soft" metrics—YouTube video views, Facebook 'likes' and followers, and Twitter posts and retweets—or harder metrics, such as customer conversions or website visits that originate from social media feeds. Setting up a governance plan that allows fast approval or control can speed up how content is produced or shared, while also allowing users to engage with patients and the public in real time.
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