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How hospitals help people through social media

July 31st, 2014

by Nancy Cawley Jean

It's no secret that people take to social media when they have a complaint. It's been said many times that brands need to be in social media, because even if the brand isn't out there, people can still mention it, in both good and bad ways.

A hospital is certainly no exception to this rule, especially when you think about how important quality of care is to people when their health is threatened and they face a hospital visit. When it comes to healthcare, expectations are high. So when their care isn't up to par, it's a safe bet people will shout it from their Facebook status updates, tweets and more.

Social media can make a significant patient satisfaction difference. I witnessed this first-hand during two specific interactions within our hospital accounts that showed the real power of social media to help people.

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First, I received a tweet from the friend of a patient in the hospital who said that she was disappointed in the care her friend got. I took that opportunity to provide the number for the patient liaison department and encouraged her to talk to them. The patient then contacted the hospital to say that while she called, the nurse came in to see her and not a patient liaison.

By having a system in place to share such comments with the patient liaison office, we were able to quickly act and one of the liaisons went up to see the patient, and she was very pleased. Our patient liaison even learned that she was missing her dog while here in the hospital, so our liaison arranged for a pet therapy dog to visit the patient during her stay. The next morning we got a tweet from the patient thanking us.

The lessons from this interaction? Had we not been on Twitter, we might not have realized the patient's, nor would we have been able to address those concerns and turn a bad situation around to hopefully impact this patient's level of satisfaction.

In the second instance, on Facebook, our pediatric psychiatric hospital received a private message from a user about local teen posting threats of suicide on his own page. We immediately shared the information with one of our mental health experts, who then contacted the local police to go to the youth's home and check on him. Our expert then requested that the police follow up directly with her after the visit. We also reported it directly to Facebook. We then took the opportunity to post a status update notifying those who follow us on Facebook that this important Facebook option was available to users who might see a friend who threatens suicide on his or her own page.

The lesson from this interaction? While we hope it was an idle threat, we may have been able to identify a potentially dangerous situation and get help for someone who may have needed it, all through a post on Facebook.

How has social media allowed your hospital to help your patients or community?

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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