We have discussed social media at length in Healthcare Global and there is no doubt that it has the potential to be an extremely beneficial tool for healthcare professionals and executives. It can be used internally to share information, data and patient records and externally to promote a drug, new hospital or healthcare best practice. However, with new tools come new challenges that need to be managed properly.
Healthcare Global takes an in-depth look at social media within the healthcare industry and provides you with tips and tools to manage it safely and efficiently >>>
The healthcare industry as a whole has been slow to adopt social media. Often there seems to be a cultural gap between the industry and social technology, and this makes it even harder for organisations to deal with crises’ that develop in the social sphere.
Social media is unavoidable, with every industry across the world taking notice and engaging in one way or another. As we noted previously, it is a tool that if used properly can be extremely beneficial to its users, but it also needs to be managed correctly to reap the best rewards.
Engaging in social media is something that shouldn’t be done haphazardly, but rather needs official rules of engagement, a team that will follow up with users, a social media strategy and a detailed SOP in case of negative feedback.
Healthcare is slow and conservative by nature, it is highly regulated, evidence-based driven, speaks in professional jargon, is complicated, maintains privacy to the highest standard and is very authoritative. While, these attributes are necessary, to a certain degree at least, they are also the opposite of social media, which is fast moving, transparent, short (with messages that can be 140 characters or less) and uncontrolled, or uncontrollable.
These gaps have to be bridged in the near future, and when that happens the question everyone is asking is, “How do healthcare execs react to these changes and will they revolutionize the face of healthcare for good?”
What Change Has Social Media Influenced?
The Customer/Patient Has Become Media
Customers and patients were always satisfied or dissatisfied, and usually shared their experiences with friends and family - nothing new there. What has changed now is that their friends are now on Facebook, and what they write can easily be published and reach thousands of people and spread like wildfire in a matter of minutes. Data published on socialnomics.net shows that 34 percent of bloggers voice their opinion on brands, and that 25 percent of search results for the world's top 20 brands are for user generated content.
>>> Healthcare execs need to understand the power of social media and must not ignore its influence. It is essential to hire a dedicated team of social media professionals to manage your online presence once you engage with social networks. You may still receive criticism, but if you have a dedicated social media customer service department, you can turn negative press into positive changes.
Positive Patient / Doctor Communication Is Essential
Content Production & Distribution Is Easy
This has particularly been driven by the growing use of smartphones, and ability to quickly self-publish in this way makes every conversation between a healthcare professional and a patient a potentially public interaction.
>>> You cannot stop people from publishing personal experiences online. In fact the only way to manage this level of open communication is to train your staff about the importance of patient interaction. Give them the social tools to handle difficult situations and make them aware of the negative PR that can be generated through badly handled communications. It is also advisable to have a patient liaison officer on hand so issues can be resolved before they reach social media networks.
It Is Much Easier For Confidential Information To Be Leaked
One of the most controversial elements of social media is privacy, and in the Wikileaks era this is true for people as well as for organisations and brands. This loss of privacy has to be remembered in every email or document produced and in every conversation.
>>> Privacy in the healthcare industry is more important than most owing to patient confidentiality. The healthcare industry has been slow to adopt social media and other forms of cloud based technology through fear if information getting into the wrong hands. Security should be the number one priority for healthcare execs. Be sure to implement strong security software, protect internal Internet and most importantly ensure there is a recognised disciplinary procedure in place for employees who share confidential information on the web.
Patient Confidentiality Is Still The Number One Priority
Social Media Drives Traditional Media
Social media has become a major driver of news and media coverage. Stories break on the back of tweets and public outrage from social networks and blogs uncovers major stories. Therefore, every tweet should be treated as a potential headline. Every customer should be treated as a journalist, and managers should be trained in how to answer questions online.
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How To Manage Your Social Media Presence
There are many ways of dealing with crises that begin with social media or the web and they apply in healthcare as much as in any other industry. But there are some similarities between the rules of treating a media crises and a disease – prevention is the best way.
Listen To The Conversation
Listen to what people are saying about your organisation online. The simple fact that an organisation did not hear someone criticising it doesn't mean that it didn't happen. This could help you treat a small fire before it becomes a wild fire. The second advantage is that you might learn a whole lot about perceptions of your organisation or brand.
Strengthen Your Social Immune System
The way to do this in social media is through active participation, creating a positive atmosphere, building a community around the brand. All these actions will help during a crisis, when a loyal community could help you weather out a storm.
One of the first rules learned in treating trauma patients in the field, is that survival rates increase if you get them to a medical facility within one hour of injury (the so-called 'golden hour'). The same applies to crises in social media. Respond, and respond quickly. Even if the response is: “We haven't got an answer yet, but we are looking into it.” Do not ignore the issue, because then the story becomes about a lack of response. If a public response is impossible for regulatory reasons, then reply to the customer privately. If he or she is satisfied, they will probably share it with the community, and the matter will be resolved.
Join The Conversation
Treat The Cause, Not The Symptoms
Remember that a social media crisis arises from a real problem, so treating and solving it will turn off the flames, whereas handling only the coverage in traditional or social media but not treating the actual cause is insufficient.
Honesty, Transparency, Empathy
When dealing with a crisis in social media these three traits are crucial. Never lie or give half-baked answers - they will be revealed very quickly. Every attempt to cover-up is doomed to fail. Empathy is important and always treat your customers with respect.
Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)
Every organisation has them. Health and pharmaceutical organisations even excel in this area, but all these SOPs have to be adjusted and written with social media in mind, especially the crisis management SOP. If these SOPs haven't been visited in a while, now is the time to check them out.
The organisation probably has a website, a blog or other social media channels. All of these are digital assets, and need to be tended and kept current, so that in times of trouble they can be updated and assist the brand or firm to communicate with their customers.
Furthermore, when trouble hits the organisation, all the digital assets need to be lined up with the messages relating to the crisis.
Educate Your Employees
Last, but certainly not least, is the importance of internal education. Employees can be a firm's greatest ambassadors and its eyes and ears in the social sphere. So educate employees on how to respond on the web, what is right or wrong and let them be involved, don't block them out.
To sum up, social media crises may occur on any day and can be devastating to an organisation, but they might also be an opportunity for betterment. Keeping your eyes and ears open, and being prepared will help in times of crisis.