Nearly all US hospitals have taken to social media outlets in recent years to engage patients and enhance the hospital experience. Using sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, FourSquare and blogs gives clinicians the opportunity to interact with the three-quarters of adult Internet users in the US who actively use social networking sites. It also extends hospital influence much further than allowed by the one-sided telephone and mail marketing campaigns of the past.
A study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) investigated the relationship between the extent of social media adoption and utilization by hospitals relative to hospital characteristics. The study found that large, urban, private, not-for-profit and teaching hospitals are among those most likely to use social media.
Of the total 3,371 US general medical and surgical centers identified, social media adoption varied across platforms, with:
- 99.41 percent having a Facebook account
- 99.41 percent having a Foursquare account
- 99.14 percent having a Yelp account
- 50.82 percent having a Twitter account
Reasons Hospitals Are Using Social Media
Hospitals are adopting social media accounts for a variety of reasons beyond curating their brand and building upon PR and marketing initiatives. Social media marketing can be used to:
- Spread awareness of hospitals’ clinical specialties
- Gather feedback from patients via questionnaires and surveys
- Recruit for clinical trials
- Educate patients with healthcare tips
- Provide the community with information about events
- Honor awards and achievements
- Disseminate information about crises or emergency care
- Provide expert opinions on emerging medical trends
- Track community perceptions
- Connect patients to healthcare services
- Allow clinicians to respond to questions related to their specialties
More than 100 healthcare organizations have joined the Mayo Clinic’s Social Media Health Network, which provides access to tools, resources and guidance for organizations and individuals who aspire to use social media to improve health and healthcare. For this group and others, social media provides a creative way to help patients get involved in their own health. The concrete, measurable benefits of leveraging these tools to grow business and improve public health will become more apparent as more health organizations adopt social media and use reporting platforms to measure success.