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Using social media for community engagement: A success story

January 15th, 2015

by Scott Kashman and Nancy Travis

Scott: Over the past several years, I have been more actively involved in social media. Through my own blog, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Hospital Impact, I have tried to see what forums were most effective. Each plays to a slightly different audience or provides a different way for me to engage others in communication.

When I started out, Paul Levy and Marty Bonick were two executives who guided my first blog efforts. It allowed me a chance to share some organizational perspectives and get more people in dialogue.

Recently, we started a hospital Facebook page to better engage community members and staff, in accordance with our social media policies. It serves as a way to share upcoming events, solicit feedback and gain real-time perspectives when people "check in" to our facility. In fact, I spoke to one family member who shared some concerns with wait times given our busy seasonal fluctuations. She and I connected and I shared some of our plan to alleviate this. She then turned to me and shared how amazing and caring our emergency department team was during her stay. It's allowed me to learn how we could use social media in a positive, proactive way to shape experiences and understand where we could enhance our processes.

While Paul and Marty helped pave my initial start, it is Nancy Travis, our director of women's services, who shines in the area of engaging people in our community and around the world. She is our social media go-to person, using social media in a way that impacts our decisions and shapes the services we provide. That's why I have asked Nancy to co-write this with me. Nancy, take it away...

[More:]

Nancy: A few years ago, I noticed that a lot of people were checking in at our Family Birth Suites area and posting pictures and comments about our department on Facebook. These were not controlled by us and were also not monitored by our hospital. I requested the necessary permissions to take ownership of our Facebook page and it has really taken off!

Here's some of the ways we've optimized social media to engage with patients:

  • We use our page to connect with our clients and families to post news of events that will be happening and to provide them with education on topics related to pregnancy and childbirth.
  • It allows us to get our message out to the community.
  • Social media provides patients and families another way to contact us prior to their admission or after discharge and ask questions and get a response quickly.
  • We celebrate the great things we do on our unit by sharing pictures with our followers. Consent is always obtained from patients and families prior to posting photos.

It is amazing how much response we get from our pictures. Some of our pictures have garnered more than 10,000 likes/shares.

It also is interesting to see how our social media posts have been shared with other areas of the United States as well as other countries.

We have been contacted for policy sharing and for advice from other health care organizations from our post, and we get ideas from our followers on what they would like for new services in our department.

When we were doing some remodeling of our unit, we asked our Facebook followers what was important to them, and more than 1,200 followers responded. The parents requested an area that they could bring their babies back to the hospital any time they wanted to weigh them. This area was designed and built and now is a community resource for new parents that is used daily.

The main thing to remember is that a social media site does need to be monitored and it needs to be updated frequently. There is nothing worse than a site that is not updated. Do not start one without a commitment to do the follow up needed to keep the page alive. Here's some tips for upkeep:

  • Posts need to be made several times per week.
  • Activity needs to be monitored on a minimum of two times per day, but ideally more often.
  • People who are asking questions on social media want a response quickly.
  • Monitor the check-ins to your facility, respond to concerns or compliments and use it as a tool to promote exceptional patient experience.

Many people think that social media is a problem and should be avoided by healthcare leaders, but we have found social media to be an asset for our hospital and for my department. It allows our clients to stay connected to us prior to admission, during their stay and after discharge.

What ways has social media helped you to engage with your community? Have you faced any social media challenges as you have been on this journey?

Scott Kashman serves as the chief administrative officer of Cape Coral Hospital, part of the Lee Memorial Health System in southwest Florida. Nancy Travis is the hospital's director of women's services.

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