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Nearly All US Hospitals Use Social Media. Now What?  

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

colorful social media symbols as keyboard keysVirtually all US hospitals now have a social media presence, with widespread adoption having increased significantly in the past few years. But a recent study suggests that hospitals are continuing to search how best to realize a meaningful purpose and payoff from social media (SM).

“This dramatic increase in social media use may show the increasing value of social media to hospitals to potentially improve market share, engage with patients, increase profitability, or advance their missions in health and healthcare," according to the study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR).

The question for marketing executives is: Is your social media program producing meaningful and measurable results?

Who’s using what SM platforms?

The picture of social media use that appears from the data paints a nearly universal awareness that social media in general is a useful conduit. But of the dozens of SM platforms, there are four that top the list.

“Of the total 3,371 US hospitals identified, the adoption of social media websites varied across platforms, with:

  • 3,351 (99.41%) having a Facebook account
  • 3,351 (99.41%) having a Foursquare account
  • 3,342 (99.14%) having a Yelp account
  • 1,713 (50.82%) having a Twitter account

“Overall, 1,699 (50.40%) hospitals had accounts on all four platforms. Few hospitals (42/3371, 1.25%) used just one or two types of social media platform. Large, urban, private nonprofit, and teaching hospitals were more likely to have higher utilization of these accounts,” the study says.

Study: Maps of social media utilization for hospitals

Study: Maps of social media utilization for hospitals

Social media has aim points, but may or may not be hitting the target…

“The relationships between hospital-associated social media activity, patient choices, clinical processes and outcomes, and hospital profit margins are unknown and almost certainly evolving rapidly.

“At the same time, it has become increasingly critical to find effective ways of communicating with patients outside of clinical settings. Mail and telephone communication channels that dominated the past are being supplemented or replaced by new media channels, and this is occurring faster in some demographic segments and hospitals than others.”

National survey data, such as the study from JMIR [available here], provides a useful overview. But an investment in social media requires meaningful information about local results. SM goals, and the measure of return, need to be connected to meaningful business information:

  • Increased revenue or growth
  • Reduced costs or expenses
  • Enhanced patient satisfaction

Although, as this study shows, most hospitals have now adopted at least one social media platform. And, depending on marketing considerations, the utilization of social media varies. For most, social media has yet to deliver to its full potential.

For related reading, see our previous post: Your Hospital Social Media Benchmark: How Do You Rank?

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