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Why the Healthcare Industry Fails at Engaging Patients on Social Media


social-media-on-smartphoneAfter evaluating the Facebook and Twitter statistics from more than 800 hospitals, released its list of the Top 100 Social Media Friendly Hospitals. Not surprisingly, the Mayo Clinic earned top honors. A recognized leader in social media, the Mayo Clinic launched its Center for Social Media in 2010 to coordinate its different social media initiatives.

Many other healthcare organizations, however, are struggling to enter the social media universe.

Concerns about patient privacy and HIPAA compliance can lead hospitals to take tentative, halting steps which fail to realize the positive impact expected. Others jump headlong into social media, but lack direction. As a result, only 26% of hospitals in the US even participate in social media, according to an article in HIT Consultant. 

To succeed, hospitals and other healthcare organizations must developed a focused social media approach to effectively drive engagement with healthcare consumers and enhance patient experiences.

3 Reasons that the Mayo Clinic is a Social Media Leader

The Mayo Clinic has a well-developed social media philosophy which states that “Mayo Clinic believes individuals have the right and responsibility to advocate for their own health, and that it is our responsibility to help them use social media tools to get the best information, connect with providers and with each other, and inspire healthy choices.” The goals of empowering healthcare consumers, as well as engaging them, are ones that all healthcare providers hope to achieve.

What is the Mayo Clinic doing right? The HIT Consultant article identifies several keys to the Mayo Clinic’s social media success:

  1. Brand Consistency Improves Recognition. The Mayo Clinic already enjoys a well-known, respected reputation, but it has cultivated a consistent tone across digital content. In addition, the Clinic is focused on providing valuable information so that it becomes a trusted voice in social media for healthcare consumers anywhere in the country, not just those located near its healthcare facilities.
  2. Social Media is an Integral Part of Its Mission. This is one healthcare organization that has fully embraced social media and has a well-defined, and well-executed, strategy to integrate social platforms wherever possible. A haphazard approach won’t get the same results; hospitals must commit the resources and develop social media ambassadors to cultivate and maintain real-time dialogues between consumers, patients, employees and others.
  3. Great Content Drives Patient Engagement. The social conversation is just a part of the equation. In order to truly connect, hospitals must offer meaningful content that consumers are seeking out. The Mayo Clinic excels at this. The Clinic’s website includes features such as an interactive guide on hundreds of diseases and conditions, a symptom checker tool and first aid treatments for a laundry list of emergency situations — from anaphylaxis to tooth aches. By providing content in a variety of formats and locations, the Clinic builds better relationships.

How Can You Avoid Social Media Missteps?

First, set guidelines to address patient privacy and HIPAA concerns — and make sure everyone across the healthcare organization understands and adheres to it. Second, recognize that social media users are increasingly diverse.

According to Pew Research, as of 2014, 74 percent of online adults use social networking sites — and even within the 65+ age group the number has risen to 49 percent. In addition, social media users run the gamut of educational and socio-economic backgrounds. A one-size-fits-all solution is likely to fall short.

Hospitals must create targeted strategies — and using consumer segmentation based on demographics alone is not enough. Psychographic segmentation helps hospitals break down potential audiences based on the unique values, motivations and attitudes of consumers.  Some psychographic segments are more likely to be actively participating in a hospital’s social media efforts, so it is imperative to cultivate these patients as ambassadors for the hospital, while trying to strengthen engagement with other segments.

The 2015 c2b Consumer Diagnostic, a national study of healthcare consumers across channels of healthcare delivery, found that the Willful Endurer and Self Achiever psychographic segments are most likely to have done the following related to a physician or hospital:

  • Posted positive or negative feedback on a social networking website (such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr)
  • Posted positive or negative feedback on that specific healthcare provider’s website
  • Asked a question on that healthcare provider’s website
  • Stated an opinion about that healthcare provider in his/her blog
  • Read a blog posted on that healthcare provider’s website
  • Watched an online video produced by that healthcare provider
  • …plus many other social media behaviors

Important to note is that Willful Endurers and Self Achievers are polar opposites when it comes to health and wellness behaviors; Self Achievers are the most proactive and wellness-oriented, while Willful Endurers are reactive and disengaged. Moreover, the messages that motivate patient activation and other communication preferences are very different between these two segments.

Effective patient engagement hinges on interacting with these segments according to their motivations and preferences. If a hospital is to realize an acceptable Return on Engagement from its investment in social media (or other patient engagement efforts), it needs to deeply understand these insights. Hospitals can then develop targeted social media strategies that connect with consumers and ultimately lead to better patient experiences. And that’s something to tweet about.

Download our whitepaper on psychographic segmentation to gain insights into how hospitals can improve patient engagement or contact PatientBond to arrange a consultation.

Psychographic Segmentation and its Practical Application in Patient Engagement and Behavior Change


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