Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Better than buying ads

I meant to cite this article about the use of social media in health care settings several weeks ago. It's main focus is marketing, but I think the ramifications extend beyond that topic.

On the marketing front, a friend (Lisa Pollack at Denterlein Worldwide) suggests:

Mr Maruggi talks about guidance and professional information as two key uses of social media in the health care industry, and I would add to that the power of trust in a social network. Facebook/MySpace/LinkedIn et al are made up of networks of people pre-selected to trust each others’ opinions. Tapping in to that trust network could be a remarkable step forward to a hospital wishing to build its brand.

I remember talking about hospital advertising about a year ago. I know that many people are put off at the idea of a hospital spending lots of money on media buys to enhance its image. Maybe social media offers a more cost-effective and socially acceptable way to do that, plus a forum to offer material that has a clinically educational content.


Anonymous said...

It does bring up an ethical question about using social media as advertising. Most people over the age of 8 know when they see a television advertisement that it is paid for and may not be completely truthful.

But as non-profits, hospitals can set themselves up as a "Cause" on Facebook soliciting donations for research and promoting the hospital image as a leader in that treatment area. Are these obvious to users as advertisements?

But I guess this style of advertisement has been done for a long time as hospitals issue press releases about research studies done. These are reported in the news, but they are also subtle advertisements. Consumers tend to believe that the hospital where the research was done is somehow better than the hospital next door. But are doctors at the research hospital any more likely to have read the study results than other doctors?

You can call me cynical, but this reminds me of how as a college student, the buzz on campus was to avoid taking classes from professors who were under pressure to publish, as they were not focused on the classes they were teaching, and tended to be grumpier as well.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of marketing BIDMC advertises on this site and this articleoffers great insight into SEIU


Rob said...

I have to take exception to the idea of a hospital "enhancing its image." Doesn't matter what medium, if your motivation to "enhance an image" you've lost sight of the point of the thing. You're producing an image, not a product.

This is bleedin' obvious, but it's my turn today to point it out:

1) Do a really good job.
2) Tell people about it.

People have a far more refined sense of when they're being snowed than they did a couple of generations ago. Unless you've been walking the talk, don't bother. Image-burnishing can have the reverse effect.

However, social media DOES give you another channel TO walk the talk. To do a good job. To connect with people, not things, and not an "image". There's the value.

Anonymous said...

Becoming more accessible is the ONLY was that doctors will stay competitive. Against what? Google. The savvy among my friends already largely diagnose for almost everything -- certainly a questionable practice. With a doctors' visit so expensive and inconvenient social media (and especially e-visits) are the only way forward.

Anonymous said...

I agree that personal referrals are a very powerful form of marketing for any business...and of course, cost effective. Do a good job and people are going to refer you to family and friends. That is assuming the decisions your hospital makes and the quality of care provided are always exceptional. I'm curious, however...what about when your hospital performs an unconscionable act...like an unnecessary heart surgery for example? This type of marketing will most certainly work against you as the person who was wronged talks 10 times more to their family and friends than the person who was treated with exceptional care and consideration. I listened to an interview you gave on utube. I commend you for your willingness to be held accountable for quality and safety standards at your hospital. Please, please ensure that the appropriate checks and balances are in place so that patients are given the best possible care they can receive. They come to you assuming you are one of the best. When lives are in the hands of your surgeons, they must act with the best possible care of the patient forefront in their minds.

Unknown said...

If by social media we mean merely the ability to for people to communicate within circles of trust, then we will depend on other's to spread the news of our good job.

If by social media we allow for an organization to be within that circle of trust, then something like a hospital can actually *do* a good job within that circle.

Here, I am thinking of the hospital helping answer people's questions, or providing valuable information. For example, tweeting the status of a de-identified patient (allowing the patient to tell their friends which feed is theirs.)

Anonymous said...

My personal experience has been that most people choose their health care providers based on referrals from their current health care providers and then from others they know and trust. All of this would argue for social media--particularly through discussion groups and blogs that focus on others with similar concerns/ailments. Therefore, I've always wondered why hospitals--and health plans--spend so much on advertising rather than on improving accessibility etc. and thought it a terrible waste. That said I now think I may have been wrong. I think Connors, Markel, etc. made some good points in the Boston Globe when they said that many people choose a brand. Although I get most of my care at a community hospital, I know many people who travel into town to get care. I also know that my insurer told me that one of the reasons that my insurance rates are so high is that statistically my neighbors use the downtown versus the local hospitals. Of course, brand may be all that people believe they have to go on--since good quality and cost measures are rarely available when one needs to make a quick decision.

vkrn said...

Hi, Paul--a former BIDMC intern who follows your blog intermittently.

To set a good example, you should probably correct your grammar.

You write, "It's main focus..."

You mean the possessive "Its" NOT the conjunction for "It is".

Your blog is read by millions so I thought I'd save you some embarrassment.

Anonymous said...

Our hospital in Castro Valley, CA is using social media to communicate about the new hospital that will replace our existing one. This is a significant project in our community and will have an impact both during and after construction. Right now we are going through all the regulatory approvals to get the green light to start construction. The new hospital will not open until January 2013 so we are using our blog and social networks to keep the community apprised of our progress and what it can expect once construction begins. More importantly, we're using social media to hear the concerns of our employees, neighbors, physicians, and local business leaders and respond to them quickly. There's a lot that goes in to a project of this magnitude and we want to be as transparent as possible. We see social media as the way to build relationships and gather support for the project.

Unknown said...

For those medical organizations looking into, or doing, social media, is it run out of the Marketing department? Do you use a "Community Manager"?