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Mark Twain once said, "If you don't like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes." As a lifelong New Englander, I can attest to that.
When it comes to social media, the same concept applies--if you don't like the social networks today, just wait, because there will be a new one tomorrow.
Hospitals are now more accustomed to navigating the social media waters: There are 1,540 hospitals in the U.S. that use one or more social media networks or blogs, according to the Health Care Social Media List (HCSML) maintained by the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media.
The HCSML keeps track of hospitals' use of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, 4Square, LinkedIn and blogs. What isn't on that list, though, is a little network called Instagram. When I say little, it's quite snarky because this month Instagram surpassed Twitter, with 300 million (yes, million) monthly users.
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.
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.
Things always change in the world of social media and sometimes it's hard to keep up. Recently, two things cropped up that deserve more attention than others.
The big news last week was the security breach dubbed the "Heartbleed" encryption bug, because, well, it's just so bad. It leaves users of many sites (not only social media) vulnerable to security breaches. Hospitals using social media should check which sites updated and change passwords accordingly, but don't do it unless the site was actually updated with a patch.
So how do you know if you should update your password or not? This Mashable story has info on major sites. Also, this website will check domains for you to see if it's safe to change your password. I recently received an email from Pinterest that we should change the passwords on our accounts, which was nice. But don't expect that from every site. I'd recommend doing your homework and responding appropriately when you know a site has been updated.
Over the years, the way we communicate with patients has changed drastically. I remember the days when, working for a health plan, we would coordinate postal mailings. Then email came along and then text messaging. And of course, there's always been traditional media outlets--television, newspaper and radio.
We've all seen the statistics about how many people are on social media: Seventy-three percent of adults online use a social network and 42 percent use multiple networks. On top of that, reports show at least 50 percent of people get their national and international news from the Internet.
Folks in communications and marketing say we have to reach out to people where they are through mobile advertising, social networks, videos, etc. Many people consider the press release dead while newspapers fold left and right.
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