6 Reasons Healthcare Systems Fear Social Media


There are over 5,700 registered hospital systems in the United States. A recent survey of hospitals  determined less than 1,600 systems participate in social media*. That means less than 30% of US  hospitals are involved in the social conversation. Why? For smaller hospital systems the answer could be very simple – budget. Most businesses have figured out that social media is not “free.” In fact – some have started and abandoned social media because there was an unexpected cost of time, even when using free tools. Hiring an internal digital marketing manager or external consultant has an impact on the budget, in which you “rob from Peter to pay Paul.” That’s not to say there aren’t ways to make a marketing budget shift an effective and valuable change in tactics.

Is fear holding hospitals back from engaging in social media?

Here’s a look at 6 common concerns that may be keeping a healthcare systems from joining the social media revolution:

1) Lack of digital experience

The digital revolution, including social media, has caught a lot of marketing departments and healthcare companies flat-footed. There is something new or changing everyday in digital marketing and it seems easier to rest on traditional marketing avenues. As seniority grows in a company, the move to an ivory tower can isolate you from new ideas and make you complacent in the status quo. “We’ve always done it this way” can be a dangerous mantra. What’s ironic is by engaging in social media you can catch up very quickly to the new ideas, thought leadership, and discussions happening in the healthcare industry.

2) It’s too late to catch up

This notion will only set you further back. In many ways you have the benefit of entering social media after a lot of expensive lessons have already been learned by others. There are experienced experts in the field who can help you devise a strategic and tactical plan to utilize social media and integrate with your existing marketing and/or communications/PR plans. There are also many best practices to follow, so you can have positive examples to present to your leadership team.

3) Resistant Board and/or Executive leadership

We know that most hospital Boards consist of mature, experienced business people who became successful long before social media was an essential part of our lives. Their role is to ensure careful, thoughtful support and advice for the hospital. The immediacy and lack of control that social media represents reflect concepts that can be incompatible with a Board’s management philosophy. Not to paint them all as media dinosaurs, your Board should be the innovation cheerleaders for the hospital system and as such, willing to hear a thoughtful presentation on adding social media to the marketing strategy.

4) Lack of strategic thinking

What is one of the most common reason that a social media plan can fail? Lack of a strategic plan to integrate social media into the existing business plan. If an organization jumps into social media and creates a Facebook page, Twitter handle, etc. but has no plan, defined voice, focus, or editorial calendar, you risk doing more harm than good. Social media is an extension of the company brand. Everything you do should reflect your brand in an integrated, positive manner. The important point is to get into the game because other companies are starting to lap you.

5) There are too many social media channels

Another mistake that companies make is to jump into every platform at once. You don’t have to launch on every social media platform just to keep up with the competition. Start with one or two social media channels that align with your company mission,and test the waters. Listen to the conversations happening in the community. Conduct a social media audit to find out what is being said and where your community is actively participating. Once you master a few channels, add more when you have the resources and strategic need. The important thing is joining the conversation as soon as possible.

6) Fear of HIPAA violations

What about HIPAA violations on social media? While it’s possible to violate rules against posting Protected Health Information (PHI) in social media, this risk can be mitigated through establishing a clear social media policy, employee training, and vigilant reputation monitoring. The reported stories that have caused concerns in healthcare stem more from lack of knowledge about the appropriate use of social media, not from a willful disregard for policies.

If any of these reasons are keeping your healthcare system from entering the social media space, they can easily be overcome with education and training. Your customers and patients are already talking about you. Don’t you think you should join the conversation?

Reference article:

* http://network.socialmedia.mayoclinic.org/hcsml-grid/

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