Health care organizations are increasingly using social media as a tool to inform consumers, but this approach scratches just the surface of effectively engaging with local communities. As Ardent Health Services learned, inverting the flow of information and listening to consumers through social media can uncover opportunities to engage patients, their families, and the community and improve their experience. This strategy can make an impact throughout the organization.
Five 'rules of social media' from tech-savvy organizations
For example, one online review had a profound effect on Ardent Health Services' operations. A mother posted a complaint that her child followed pre-op instructions by waking up very early for surgery preparation, avoided eating or drinking anything at home—and then waited three hours in the waiting room, an experience that added up to 19 hours since their child had eaten. When the social media team received the review, they informed the hospital CEO and the Surgery Director so they could immediately visit with the family. Together, they also reviewed standard practices and changed the hospital-wide policy for pediatric surgical scheduling, decreasing how much time pediatric patients and their families spend in the waiting room before surgery to be more patient-centric throughout the system.
By actively engaging in this type of "social listening," Ardent Health Services has continued to improve the patient experience and optimize its offerings.
Ardent Health Services' best practices for social listening
Ardent has a designated and centralized Social Media Team; created to ensure the company has a consistent online voice, the team is HIPAA-Compliant and can quickly respond to online comments 24 hours a day. The team consists of five specialists, each of whom has a dedicated responsibility, ranging from content creation to optimizing post timing, responding, and reporting. From its investment in social media, Ardent has experienced significant year-over-year growth in overall engagement.
Whether or not you have a dedicated social media team or part-time FTE, your organization can benefit from the following best practices based on Ardent Health Services' experience and expertise:
- Create a hierarchy of complaints and response protocols based on the content's risk level
As comments and questions come in from the more than 90 social media channels and 134 websites the Ardent team oversees, they are sorted into categories based on risk level, initiating an appropriate response based on preset protocols for that risk level. The team then takes steps to address the comments and questions to ensure the patient or family members are left with a positive experience.
Swiftly diagnosing the associated risk level of incoming feedback and establishing preset action steps for each of those risk levels allows a quicker, more precise response to online comments. For example, you can establish protocols to reach out privately to any detrimental comments you believe were posted in error, respond judiciously to fair criticism to move the conversation offline, react immediately to comments from patients still in your facilities, and raise systemic issues to senior leadership's attention.
- Give your team the resources to affect change
Ardent also ensures its Social Media Team has easy access to other entities within the organization, an approach that streamlines collaboration. Similarly, you can facilitate collaboration between each entity in your organization and the social listening team to solve systemic issues and improve the overall patient experience—this could take the form of monthly meetings between division leaders, emails, or designated division liaisons.
As shown in the case of Ardent's surgical scheduling, social listening can both improve a hospital's online reputation and provide a fresh perspective to rethink industry-wide norms. By better understanding patients' emotions and experiences, hospitals can improve the patient journey to better meet and exceed consumer expectations. Health systems can even use social listening to help predict patient provider choices, discover opportunities for brand improvement, and uncover new opportunities for innovation. In all, social media can be an effective tool for hospitals to continue to grow their market and to improve their overall quality of care and patient satisfaction.
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