Over the past two years I've attended several
hospital, human resource/recruiter trade shows and conferences where social
media was a hot topic. Unfortunately, each session on the topic has been a
disappointment. In some cases it was because the presenter was not up to speed
on their information in this space. I've listened to speakers who were giving out very inaccurate information and admitted they didn't use social media themselves. However, the biggest disappointment
typically comes from the questions and responses of the crowd participants as a whole.
Many hospital employees present at each of the shows admitted that their organization had no
social media presence and typically gave the same reasons why – either their
hospital had a policy prohibiting employees from using social media or the hospital was absent a policy permitting such usage.
Hospitals are fairly traditional institutions when
it comes to marketing, technology and communication. Add to it the
brave new world of social media and the issue becomes even more complicated. Here are
some of the standard objections I hear as to why hospitals tend to avoid social media:
What if someone talks about our organization in a
way we can’t control? Guess what – they are talking about your organization and you can’t
control it. However, you can monitor it, be aware of it and participate in the
conversation in an effort to help guide and keep it positive. If you do have an employee that says something negative or that
violates one of your policies you can of course address this just as you would in any venue outside of social media. But first you
have to know how to actively monitor your hospital's brand online and get your employees to
promote this brand in a positive manner. The same rules for your employees
apply to the web as they do within your own hospital walls. Establishing and fostering a positive means of communication is the way to go. Attempting to prohibit them from talking
about your organization online or fully controlling the situation is a game you won’t win.
There is too much liability with social media. Every industry has the potential for
Healthcare is not unique in this way. Imagine if every industry were similarly afraid of such liability that it led to the same avoidance and
inaction – we’d be getting no where. Your legal department needs to be
on the realities of social media just like all of your departments. Your hospital legal department will gladly write you books on all
the potential issues and liabilities that exist for you on the web. They’re lawyers and
that’s what they do. I’m certainly not trying to dismiss their advice (or
provide my own – I’m not a lawyer). However, the incredible adoption of social
media as a means of communication and networking mean that ignoring it or
prohibiting its use won’t make it go away. The risks and potential threats need
to be discussed, recognized and thought through.
What about ads from competition? This is a question that bothered a lot of people at one conference.
Many social networking sites contain
ads. These hospital HR managers were concerned that if their employees went to their organization's social media pages they would be lured away by the ads from their competitors. The fact is that your employees are seeing these ads all over the place already and if an ad is going to make them jump you're at risk for losing them anyway. But being absent from the
web is only going to ensure they see the ads of your competition and not any of
your organizations promotions.
Our IT Department has firewalls permitting us from
accessing social media sites. Being in healthcare your hospitals are held to
incredibly strict standards in order to protect health information. Of course
it’s necessary that IT has these firewalls in place. However, just like your other
departments, IT too needs to be prepared and brought into the loop regarding
your organization’s social media plan. If the bigger concern here is employee
productivity (or loss of, due to usage of these sites) you can address this in your
policies just like anything else, or simply allow access only to select individuals
within your walls.
We don’t have a policy allowing us to use social
media. I’ll be honest, hospitals are the only institutions I’ve interacted with
where both the presence of a ‘No’ and the absence of a ‘Yes’ mean the same
thing. This can create an environment of inaction. If you don’t have a policy I certainly don’t want to suggest you put yourself
in a situation where you will get in trouble or fired, but I will suggest you
start pushing for getting a policy in place STAT! If you don’t know where to
start, there are many examples of social media policies out there to draw from.
Promoting and marketing your brand using social
media is not a fad and it’s not going away. In fact, if you are not already
doing it you’re late for the party. Hospitals and health systems have a tremendous opportunity to
get their departments and employees motivated and engaged with tools that help
promote their organizations in many new, exciting and effective
ways. Social media can help people
learn about your hospital culture, help you communicate more effectively with
patients and staff and even afford you new recruitment opportunities for
healthcare professionals and staff.
Everyone you come into contact with
is using social
media – your staff, your patients, and yes, even your competition. If
they use these
tools more effectively than you, you will soon be losing patients,
business and employees (if you're not already). Join the
conversation and help direct it positively. If there are any negative
issues, address them, resolve them and move on.
Kudos to those hospitals already engaged with
social media. To the rest of you – it’s time to embrace these new platforms for
what they are – the most effective communication and networking mediums that