Although we’ve heard that some hospitals and healthcare organizations either haven’t started at all or have fallen behind in using social media, other hospitals have already discovered the how powerful this communications and promotional tool platform has become in healthcare. It’s a whole new world of technology, communications, promotions and mobile networking. Those hospitals that have discovered this fact and are diving in are way out in front. They’re getting recognition for their brand, pulling in more patients through referrals and networking, and connecting with their communities. What strategies are hospitals using to benefit from their social media connections? What promotional ideas have they used to beat out the competition and get their name out there?
1. Reporting a live transplant operation. Children’s Medical Center in Dallas used Twitter to communicate a kidney transplant between father and son. Both UT Southwestern Medical Center (where the kidney was removed from the father) and Children’s Medical Center in Dallas (where the kidney was transplanted into the son) tweeted about these events. According to reports from the hospitals, Children’s Twitter followers had increased 370 percent, 40 interviews were scheduled over the next nine days, and more than 900 stories were distributed with more than 60 million impressions. On top of that, 20 people contacted Children’s about become organ donors.
2. Mobile help finding the closest ER. At Massachusetts General Hospital, a hospital on the forefront of groundbreaking research, a talented group of researchers from their Emergency Department created a free app for the iPhone that lets users find the closest emergency room to their location anywhere in the United States. Social media helped promote this, according to Mike Morrison, who oversees social media for MGH’s public relations department. “Our strategy here was to create this YouTube video and then pitch to bloggers encouraging them to use our embed code for their stories … Although it’s tough to get publicity among a sea of apps, our video allowed us to provide more content for bloggers and increased our chances of getting attention. Even if we didn’t have the pitching success we did, we were able to tweet the video and the link to download, as well as post to our Facebook page. It was a great combination of traditional pitching, content creation, and social media.”
3. Helping people find a doctor and setting up appointments. Bon Secours Hospital in Richmond, Virginia, has racked up some pretty impressive social media statistics. According to Nick Dawson, director of communications and community engagement, the hospital made $250,000 through social media referrals alone. Dawson says 85 percent of those referrals – 50 patients – came through Twitter; the rest came through Facebook and YouTube. Dawson’s team uses Twitter to:
- Respond to patients who are looking for a Bon Secours doctor.
- Find people on Twitter who might need a doctor.
- Say “we’re here to help.” When a person contacts the Bon Secours email to make an appointment, a social media team member calls that person back to set up an appointment. Dawson says this optimizes and facilitates tracking and quantifying social media referrals.
4. Watching a live testing experience. At the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, Washington, Dana Lewis, the hospital’s interactive marketing specialist, helped to create “Sleepless In Seattle: A Night In The Sleep Center.” This was an online live stream of a patient’s overnight sleep-disorder testing experience, moderated by doctors, who answered questions via Twitter. Ms. Lewis said that the primary goal was to educate people about sleeping issues and provide access for interactions with sleep medicine experts. Because of the program, 10,000 people interacted directly with physicians from Swedish and there were 5.5 million media impressions. It was later calculated that the testing experience had a 109 percent ROI for the hospital. More recently, Swedish Medical Center live-tweeted a knee surgery.
5. Raising charitable donations. Lowell General Hospital in Lowell, Massachusetts, held a TeamWalk for Cancer Care in May 2011 to raise money for various cancers treated at the hospital. Walkers registered and posted their entries to Facebook and Twitter, while encouraging their friends and followers to donate online. In addition, walkers set up their cell phones to post to Twitter or Facebook for status updates while they were walking: “I’m at the three-mile mark of Lowell General Hospital’s TeamWalk. Only four more miles to go! Please be sure to donate now!”