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Hospitals: Think outside the box to connect with patients through social media

March 17th, 2016

by Nancy P. Jean

Social media has come a long way since 2009 when I launched our hospitals’ social efforts. Back then, only about 5 percent of the country’s hospitals were using social media. Now we’re up to about 25 percent.

With more and more hospitals and brands in general trying to be heard, it’s crucial to try to be unique. It’s time to think outside the box to reach your patients, or potential ones. Unlike other brands, hospitals just have to remember to not cross the line of what’s okay under HIPAA.

On Twitter, look for opportunities to connect with people who are talking about health issues, or more importantly, about your hospital. This week, while monitoring, I found a tweet from someone who was at one of our hospitals, with a link to his Instagram account showing a seriously misaligned ankle. He did not know the hospital was on Twitter, because he just mentioned the name without using the Twitter handle. So I took the opportunity to simply say “OUCH. Feel better!”


In three little words, I was able to show a bit of compassion, let him know we’re on Twitter and that we’re listening. What I didn’t do was say that he was a patient or ask him if there was something I could do, because that would be divulging that he was at our hospital. If he wants to say that, that’s fine, but we can’t. And in response, we got a “thanks hospital!” tweet, punctuated with a heart emoji.

On Facebook, pictures are a great way to get the ball rolling. We once posted a picture of one of our newborns, with a release from the parents of course, and then announced we were starting a photo album on our page of the beautiful babies born at our hospital and asking for a bit of a story. It was one of our most engaging posts ever and one we can revisit from time to time. Find a topic that appeals to people (who can refuse an adorable baby?) and ask patients to share their stories--that is what social media is all about.

Instagram, meanwhile, is a growing network that’s really popular with millennials, so it’s a great way to connect with the younger generation that includes moms or moms-to-be. With an ever-growig user base, this photo-sharing network allows you to easily showcase your events, special guests, pet therapy visits and the visual things that make your hospital unique. Remember--a picture is worth a thousand words, and these days, maybe even more.

Think of social media as a way to show off those pearls within a hospital, connect with people on a personal basis and make a lasting impression for your brand.

What are some of the different approaches you’ve taken through social media to connect with patients?

Nancy P. Jean is the senior social media strategist for Lifespan Inc.


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