Friday, January 20, 2012

Healthcare Needs to Embrace Social Media, But With Caution

“I won't tell you that you have to join Facebook or set up a Twitter account,” says ECRI Institute Director of Risk Management Publications Paul Anderson, “but your patients and staff are using these tools.” In the above video, Anderson explains that there are risks involved in adopting social media in the health industry, but the benefits far outweigh any privacy concerns. Community outreach, patient support, communication, and education are some of the biggest topics in the industry, but ECRI’s recent report, Social Media in Healthcare, found some deeper information as well. We’ve summarized some of ECRI’s findings in today’s blog, but the full report can be found here (free registration required).

What Are Health Facilities Doing in Social Media?

Perhaps the first thing to look at in any conversation about your business is, what are our competitors doing? The answer to that, as far as social media goes, is apparently, ‘a lot.’

ECRI’s report found that, as of June 2011, there were 3,952 social media sites for hospitals in the U.S. That includes 1,018 Facebook pages, 137 blogs, and 548 YouTube channels. YouTube has traditionally been a popular channel in the health industry, because video lends itself well to education and community outreach. Most of the information shared on these channels centers around

  • Organizational news and services
  • Sharing general news
  • Community events
  • Success stories and
  • Customer outreach

It’s Not Just About Marketing.

Of course, a large part of social media is advertising, but in the health industry, there are far nobler purposes behind the push. The ECRI report contains an in-depth look at some of the more common examples, and references a list of 140 uses for Twitter, which include

…recruiting blood donations, communication during disasters, weight management and support, epidemiological tracking, arranging outpatient care, realtime satisfaction surveys, averse event reporting, and food and product safety alerts.

So, What’s the Plan?

The first step in adopting a social media strategy, according to ECRI, is to plan, plan, and plan. Every aspect of your social presence needs to be clearly defined from the outset, in order to ensure that you are less likely to fall victim to privacy or compliance failure. ECRI also stresses the importance of introducing social media training into basic HIPAA Compliance Training. As the world moves further and further into a tech-oriented landscape, it’s a point we can’t help but agree with.


Pam Argeris is a thought leader in the Healthcare Industry and possesses extensive, hands-on experience with CMS compliance, and multiple regulatory bodies such as NCQA, JACHO, and DOI. In her role at Merrill Corp., Pam focuses on developing solutions for compliance and quality assurance, delivered in a cost effective manner to improve beneficiary and prospect communications. You can contact Pam at

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