Health care, especially health care delivery like hospitals, have avoided social media like the plague. Why? Issues including privacy, legal, and the perceived ambiguity of benefits of using social media were reasons to lay low in the early days of web 2.0. It didn’t seem that social media and conversations about health care would yield tremendous results, until now.
Today there are three key changes that now make social media an attractive destination for health care delivery
- Health care politics, whether you believe in single payer or private sector, consumer information is a good thing.
- Cost controls and performance are on-going goals for health care providers and payers.
- Pioneers in health care social media are forging new helpful forums online.
Health care Report Cards
Let’s start with consumer information. A survey called HCAHPS http://www.hcahpsonline.org/ conducted by hospitals as part of the Hospital Quality Alliance: Improving Care Through Information. The survey is comprised of information from hospitals across the nation about patient care procedures. The website allows users to compare hospitals by geography or in a variety of health care procedures such as heart aliments, knee replacements, and gallbladders, yes even gallbladders.
After costs and facilities, there are key sites that allow you to get a report card on your physician, try http://www.healthgrades.com. This gives you a chance to size up a physician, great for a mobile and transient society. Here even if you are new to a neighborhood, you can get a snap shot of the physicians in the market.
Www.Carol.com makes the case that if you shop for big screen TVs, you should be able to shop for MRIs, flu shots, and many other procedures. At this site one of the curtains for health care is pulled back as costs are revealed for medical tests and equipment.
Patient Comments Enhance Customer Improvements
A pioneering website that brings real-world experiences of patients is www.healthcarescoop.com. It is a blog for patients to tell it as they get it–health care that is. It is the classic application of customer reviews in an area that, up to now, has not had much of a chance at open discussion. In the big picture, patient comments online will further highlight the quality of care. This online presence comes at a time when many health care delivery systems are changing their image to be more customer friendly, with everything from waiting rooms that look like hotel lobbies and aggressively going after top physicians to improve their outcomes. The number of stories on Healthcare Scoop is approaching nearly 1000 from 20 states and across more than 300 areas of care as of early summer 2008.
Consumers also have greater insight into issues surrounding hospitals at blogs such as Running a Hospital, by Paul Levy, CEO of Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital: http://runningahospital.blogspot.com/. This is a widely recognized blog acclaimed by health care journalists for its authenticity and willingness to engage in a dialogue of deficiencies as well as successes in health care.
The Bottom Line
Welcome to social media health care. You’ll see this open dialogue across the profession is necessary for improving health care delivery and expediting these improvements throughout the profession.
Albert Maruggi is the president of Provident Partners, a PR and social media consultancy. He is also the host of the Marketing Edge podcast and a senior fellow of the Society for New Communications Research. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @albertmaruggi on Twitter.