SOCIAL MEDIA and Your Health
How three area hospitals work with the Web to promote and manage good health
“We want to keep people educated that they have worldclass health care right here at home, without the commute. And social media is the way to do that.”
JANE ELLIS VICE PRESIDENT OF MARKETING, PUBLIC RELATIONS AND COMMUNITY HEALTH, HOLY NAME MEDICAL CENTER
New parents can upload photos and send framed birth announcements from The Valley Hospital Facebook page. Patients interested in palliative care can read the transcript of a Twitter chat with a Holy Name Medical Center physician. And Hackensack University Medical Center is working on a Facebook page that will direct patients to social groups based on such interests as cancer treatment or women’s health..
Hospitals throughout North Jersey are tapping into a growing national trend to use social media, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and even Pinterest, to connect more directly with the community.
“This is a great way to reach out to the community,” says Maureen Curran Kleinman, coordinator of communications and markets at The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood. “It really allows us to engage with people out there who have an interest in Valley.”
The movement to the Web has followed prodding from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which issued a 2011 pamphlet outlining small steps hospitals could take to increase their Internet presence. The pamphlet says the number of hospitals with an online presence has expanded exponentially.
Trade groups, such as the Healthcare Association of New York State, have also chimed in. That organization, which represents about 220 hospitals in New York, released a 2012 white paper that found patients viewed hospitals with strong social media presences as more cutting edge.
Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck also sees it as a way to remind people that they receive the same quality service in North Jersey that they can on the other side of the Hudson.
“People are not aware of the depth of services on this side of the river,” says Jane Ellis, vice president of marketing, public relations and community health at Holy Name. “We want to keep people educated that they have world-class health care right here at home, without the commute. And social media is the way to do that.”
While traditional consultations with doctors and nurses remain the first choice for information for most people with health concerns, online resources are gaining popularity, according to a 2011 survey by the Pew Research Center. That report, called The Social Life of Health Information, found that 59 percent of all adults have consulted the Internet for information about health topics that included specific diseases and treatment. The survey also found that 20 percent of adults have watched online videos about health or medical issues; 13 percent have gone online to find others with health concerns similar to theirs; and 18 percent have consulted Internet reviews of particular drugs and medical treatments.
Early adopters of social media in the health-care field include some of the most prestigious organizations in the country. The Mayo Clinic’s website offers free advice from more than 3,000 medical professionals, and Massachusetts General Hospital created an iPhone app that allows users to find the closest emergency room to any location in the United States.
But a 2012 survey by Virginia-based Computer Sciences Corp., an information technology services company, found that most hospitals still need to expand their social media platforms. The survey of 36 United States hospitals and health-care systems found that using social media to directly engage with patients is still uncommon. Only one respondent indicated that it uses social media to aid in care coordination or care management, and no respondents said they used social media to recruit volunteers for clinical trials. That report concluded that hospitals that use social media can help patients become more informed and more engaged.
But the use of social media in health care is in such an early stage that local health-care providers are still trying to figure out the best way to engage users and respond to an inevitable downside to the interactive online world: negative comments.