Seeing the Value in Social One Patient at a Time

When most folks hear the words “Mayo Clinic,” they immediately think of dependable, high quality and often cutting-edge care. Those of us in the social media realm also think of the organization’s cutting-edge use of social networks to advance patient care. (Check out the clinic’s Center for Social Media and corresponding Social Media Week of events in mid-October.) So it was with almost school-girlish delight that I learned the center’s director, Lee Aase, will be keynoting the Health IT Leadership Summit at the Fox Theatre on December 4th.

It just goes to show you that Georgia and its healthcare providers are really beginning to recognize the value social networks can bring to patient care. Sure, it may have something to do with government incentives to begin engaging with patients digitally, but I like to think the majority of hospitals and even smaller practices realize they need to reach out digitally to patients where they already feel comfortable – be it Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or even Pinterest.

Patients, their friends and family members are themselves realizing the value of these types of care communities. You may recall the story last year of celebrity Donnie Wahlberg helping a fan find six viable kidney donors for her transplant through a simple message retweet. How about the more recent news of Calif.-based genetic testing company 23andMe using social media to recruit people with Parkinson’s disease to donate their DNA samples for research?

And let’s not overlook the fact that connecting with people via social media may just increase a hospital’s chances of recruiting new customers and keeping current ones. With an influx of new patients expected in 2014 thanks to healthcare reform, the time seems ripe for providers to begin developing relationships/followings with people who might already be thinking about where they will spend their hard-earned dollars on healthcare in a few years.

According to Billian’s HealthDATA, 90 of Georgia’s 197 hospitals (roughly 46 percent) have a social profile up on either Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or LinkedIn. The bigger metro area systems have large communities of dedicated followers. Close to 20,000 folks like Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Facebook Page, while WellStar’s Twitter following has grown to a healthy 2,000+. Emory Healthcare’s YouTube presence has garnered its videos more than 9,000 views, and Piedmont’s Pinterest board is overflowing with content on a variety of topics.


Cancer Treatment Center of Americas, which recently opened a facility at Southeastern Regional Medical Center in Newnan, may be new to the area but seems to digitally live up to its motto of “Care that Never Quits” with a social presence on six different networks. I wonder if they do, in fact, engage with patients via social media 24/7. (They’ve got a Klout score of 53, in case you were wondering.)

Sure, we can talk until we’re blue in the face about HIPAA laws, protecting patient information, ensuring privacy, etc., but at the end of the day, patients or customers, whatever we want to call ourselves, want to feel like we are a part of a community. And no matter what type of community that might be, it’s nice to think that those who care for us are willing to find us, connect with us and continue educating us in the social space.

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September 15th, 2012
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