SO­CIAL ME­DIA and Your Health

How three area hos­pi­tals work with the Web to pro­mote and man­age good health

201 Health - - Technology - WRIT­TEN BY STEPHANIE AKIN

“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.”


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.

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