Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Benefiting from Social Media

Healthcare professionals, medical practices, and institutions are using digital media along with traditional communication methods to find solutions to enhance communications to meet the needs of empowered patients. The healthcare community is finding that using social media develops better relationships, improves compliance, and as a result, outcomes improve.

However, as more healthcare professionals reach out using social media, other problems and challenges exist with bandwidth issues and privacy concerns. ECRI has just published a new risk analysis “Social Media in Healthcare” to help healthcare providers face the unique risks social media poses.

In spite of the concerns, the rate of adoption has increased in the past two to three years. According to ECRI Institute, an independent nonprofit researching the emergence of social media over the past five years, as of October 2011, over a thousand hospitals have recognized the significant potential benefits and are actively using social media.

ECRI’s research done as part of ECRI Institute’s Healthcare Risk Control System membership found that hospitals and other healthcare organizations use social media in ways that attempt to meet consumer demand but at the same time must develop and enforce social media plans to define how engaged the organization will be, the audience for social media, as well as the policies and procedures needed to manage the risks of privacy, reputation management, and employment issues.

Almost 200 organizations have established a set of guidelines for professionals and patients to use when they use social media. Some of the organizations that have established polices include the Cleveland Clinic, Kaiser Permanente. Ohio State Medical Center, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Roche and Sentara have also has published their philosophy on social media along with their guidelines and policies. For other organizations listed, go to

Paul Anderson, ECRI Institute Director, speaking extensively on the topic states, “I won’t tell you that you have to join Facebook or set up a Twitter account, but your patients and staff are using these tools. Healthcare managers would be shortsighted not to consider both the risks and benefits that social media presents. There are privacy and reputational risks, but social media can present tremendous opportunities for hospitals to communicate with their communities, patients, and staff.”