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Digital job shift could impact hospitals' social media

June 26th, 2014

by Nancy Cawley Jean

I recently read a blog post by Arik Hanson (@arikhanson) about well-known people in the digital world switching jobs. In his post, Hanson said, "Research has proven that ambitious, upwardly-mobile employees get a little bored after a few years in the same role ... They master the job quickly, get bored and want a new challenge. This is exactly what is happening in social right now."

Social media became a "real job" in the past five to six years. We launched social media for the hospitals in the Lifespan health system in 2009, and we were among the first 5 percent of hospitals to do so.

According to the Health Care Social Media List maintained by the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, as of this writing, 1,563 hospitals now use social networks. The American Hospital Association reports there are 5,723 registered hospitals in the United States, so 27 percent of hospitals have jumped into social media. That's up 22 percent in five years.

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Now if the assumption of a big hiring shift in the digital world holds true, and employees are bored after a few years then there could be a major shift in hospital social media. It means the people who did the research, developed the strategy, wrote the policies, launched the initiative and created the "social personality" for your hospital might look for a new challenge.

Hospital social media is unique in that we have to be personable and represent our organization well, but beyond that, we need to protect patient privacy, handle complaints appropriately and abide by all that is HIPAA. There are certainly plenty of great candidates for a social media role these days. Some have even had formal training in school--they are smart, talented and have the skills to promote your hospital in the social sphere. On the other hand, it will be a while before they can get up to speed because there's a huge learning curve for someone who isn't already in healthcare communications.

So where does that leave your hospital or system? Do you rely on one person for all your social media efforts, do you have a team or do you have an agency? If it's the first option, it's time for some serious succession planning. If you have a team, that shared workload will definitely help when one member of the team leaves and will be a huge asset in getting a new member of the team up and running. If you're working with an agency, then you've got no worries, until one of the agency staff handling your account leaves and then all bets are off.

Is your hospital prepared if your social media community manager follows in what seems to be the latest digital job trend? Has your hospital already experienced this and what did you do? We'd love to hear from you--how you handled the situation could help!

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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