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Your patients may depend on social media

January 16th, 2013

by Nancy Cawley Jean

No, that headline is not a typo. Patients might not depend on social media for their health status or actual healthcare, but when it comes to choosing a hospital, chances are good that social media may come into play.

If you've read any of my past posts, you know I'm a strong advocate for hospitals using social media, for a myriad of reasons. Now, there are two more reasons, and hospitals need to pay attention to them.

A new study indicates that 41 percent of patients report that social media impacts their choice of hospital. Read that again and let it sink in. That's right--their choice of hospital can be influenced by social media--YOUR social media.

In essence, that means if your hospital is not using social media and your competition is, then guess where nearly half of your potential patients may end up going?

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Looking at social media in this light gives a whole new meaning to "return on investment." We all know that a hospital needs to be running near capacity to remain financially viable. If your hospital is losing a portion of your patient population to another hospital because they increased their awareness and built some brand loyalty through social media, your hospital may be feeling it in the bottom line.

If that's not reason enough for you to consider jumping on the social media bandwagon, this should-- the study also found that 44 percent of people are sharing positive experiences with their hospital, and 40 percent are sharing negative experiences. If your hospital is not participating in social media, all these mentions, both good and bad, are going unnoticed by your hospital. More importantly, your staff is not able to respond to those posts.

Why is that important? It's all about brand awareness and brand loyalty. If someone posts something positive about your organization, and someone from the hospital personally thanks them, aren't they more likely to think more positively of the hospital, knowing their opinion matters?

The same applies to negative comments. A staff member can respond to that person and address the problem cited. By doing so, the chances are good for that interaction to turn someone with a bad opinion into a loyal supporter for your brand.

Is this enough to convince you to start using social media? If not, what is holding you back?

Nancy Cawley Jean is a senior media relations officer for the Lifespan health system in Rhode Island, managing social media for five hospitals and a women's medicine practice.

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