201 Health - - Technology -

re­cent de­vel­op­ment is a new Pin­ter­est ac­count, the first of any health-care provider in Ber­gen County.

“In health care,” Ken Parker, di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions and mar­ket­ing, says, “you hear a lot about medicine and re­search, but health care is re­ally emo­tional too. Pin­ter­est brings that out. It re­ally brings the hos­pi­tal to life in ways that other so­cial me­dia plat­forms can’t do.”

The hos­pi­tal’s Pin­ter­est page – at pin­ter­est.com/val­ley­hos­pi­tal – fea­tures healthy recipes, in­spir­ing sto­ries and in­for­ma­tional videos. It also has posts for spe­cific pop­u­la­tions, in­clud­ing new moms, can­cer pa­tients, and women’s and chil­dren’s ser­vices.

The new so­cial me­dia pres­ence has also helped dur­ing flu sea­son, nat­u­ral dis­as­ters and other pub­lic-health events. Dur­ing Su­per­storm Sandy, for ex­am­ple, the hos­pi­tal worked with lo­cal agen­cies to de­liver mes­sages to its more than 2,100 Face­book fans about open shel­ters and other emer­gency as­sis­tance.

The hos­pi­tal, like many health-care agen­cies, has also had to grap­ple with some of the down­sides of so­cial me­dia. Invit­ing user par­tic­i­pa­tion can help pa­tients share pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ences and thank their doc­tors – but it also be­comes a place to air com­plaints.

“That’s part of it,” Cur­ran Klein­man says. “We have to un­der­stand that that hap­pens, as well as the com­pli­ments.”

If it is ap­pro­pri­ate, she says, hos­pi­tal staff will re­spond di­rectly to the com­plaint on the site. If not, each com­plaint is an op­por­tu­nity to reach out to an un­happy pa­tient and ad­dress his or her con­cerns.

Af­ter hav­ing a Face­book and Twit­ter pres­ence for sev­eral years, Hack­en­sack Univer­sity Med­i­cal Cen­ter is ex­plor­ing ways to ex­pand its so­cial me­dia pres­ence, Hughes says.

“What we’re find­ing is most peo­ple who like us and fol­low us are in the in­dus­try,” Hughes says. “It’s anal­o­gous to lik­ing a Mar­riott ho­tel: When I need it, I stay there, but it’s not part of my life.”

The hos­pi­tal’s cur­rent In­ter­net pres­ence is geared to­ward a gen­eral au­di­ence, but HUMC is in the early stages of de­vel­op­ing con­di­tion-spe­cific Web of­fer­ings, where users can en­ter con­ver­sa­tions about ar­eas that in­ter­est them – from geri­atric pa­tients to new­borns. The hos­pi­tal also is work­ing on a dig­i­tal plat­form that will be more ac­ces­si­ble from mo­bile de­vices.

And the hos­pi­tal is try­ing to de­vise ways to use so­cial me­dia to in­crease the role the hos­pi­tal plays in peo­ple’s daily lives.

“We run a dif­fer­ent type of busi­ness than the con­sumer prod­uct com­pany,” Hughes says. “You come to the hos­pi­tal for a spe­cific need; you’re not plan­ning that need. We want to be on top of peo­ple’s minds.”

To that end, HUMC is eval­u­at­ing strate­gies to par­tic­i­pate in con­ver­sa­tions peo­ple are al­ready hav­ing on the Web, such as retweet­ing in­ter­est­ing com­ments and sto­ries or even com­ment­ing on other mes­sage boards.

“How do we be­come a part of those con­ver­sa­tions?” Hughes says. “That’s some­thing we’re tak­ing a look at.”

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