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Social media and healthcare

In the past couple of months, I’ve immersed myself in the study of healthcare social media.

I’m finding vast potential for connecting healthcare organizations with key communities such as patients and their family members, physicians, nurses, those who govern and regulate the industry…

Like government (where I formerly worked), healthcare as a whole seems to have many fears and concerns when it comes to social media marketing:

Technical issues. Some, especially those in IT, are concerned about matters such as hacking and viruses. Yet they are willing to learn and take steps to prevent problems in these areas.

Privacy. Others, mainly in the HR arena, fear that employees will divulge confidential or inappropriate information. They cite cases where hospital employees have actually posted photos on Facebook of emergency room patients, or carelessly vented about a difficult situation. Yet they are willing to adopt policies similar to those that have protected other organizations from such risks.

Time. Many, mainly in PR and marketing, wonder where they’ll find the time to monitor social media, respond to comments, and otherwise engage with key influencers. After all, social media marketing is a commitment, not a campaign. It takes up some of your precious time, those minutes and hours that you could be finishing that important task on your to-do list. Yet they are excited about the effectiveness of going direct with members of their key audiences and markets — about bypassing the media filter, DVR’s/Tivo, and subscription radio. They are willing to try new time management practies.

No first-hand experience. Yet others, with a variety of backgrounds, don’t use social media in their personal lives. They don’t Facebook or visit the blogosphere. Some are private people who don’t want to share on the Internet. Others don’t like communicating via computer. Many say they’re too busy. A variety of reasons. Yet they know they are late adopters who may have to at least give it a try. Social media isn’t for everyone — yet. Neither was the telephone, the radio, the television, the Internet, e-mail or other commonplace parts of our daily lives early in their adoption phases. Take a look at Social Media Revolution 2.

Overall, my early assessment is that healthcare in general will  slowly but surely move ahead with social media marketing. I’m really encouraged by organizations such as the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media. Great things lie ahead. I’m excited to be a part of them.

  1. Elliot Campbell
    January 23, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    I think you missed one big fear, the legal one. In a highly regulated industry like healthcare, or financial services, this is a big one.

    When I worked for a PR agency which exclusively had pharma/biotech clients, we tried to get them to take an interest in social media. But even for informational/educational campaigns that were “lightly branded” or non-branded, they were afraid participation would cause all kinds of legal headaches. Even if we suggested limiting some of the features that we could.

    For example, take a Facebook page. What if someone posts a comment on an event page conflicting with FDA regulations? Could that be attributed to the company and then they become liable? What about an inappropriate response to a twitter post that includes the client’s name, or even just an event name? The concern that was by officially being part of that social media channel, they could be seen as sanctioning these kinds of comments.

    It’s a real concern in an industry that is highly regulated, and where one off detail could lead to an FDA-investigation.

    • mikeboehmer57
      January 23, 2011 at 5:08 pm

      Thanks for your insights, Elliot. You raise some good points. I think that with some teamwork among PR, Marketing, IT, Legal, HR and other areas, a health care organization can effectively use social media to achieve strategic goals — in a low-risk way.

  2. January 24, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    Thanks, Mike, for verbalizing exactly the fears of those of us in healthcare. You captured several departments concerns and fears well. Now that you’ve identified some of the obstacles, please continue to suggest solutions. I’ll be waiting!

    • mikeboehmer57
      January 24, 2011 at 3:19 pm

      I’m already finding solutions through resources such as the Mayo Clinic’s Social Media efforts. It’s my hope that we all come up with solutions, and share them here and in other forums.

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