Report Outlines Social Media Opportunities, Risks in Health Care

The ECRI Institute has released a report outlining social media opportunities for health care organizations while stressing the importance of developing strategy and risk management plans, CMIO reports (Pearson, CMIO, 1/19).

Current Social Media Use

The report -- titled, "Social Media in Healthcare" -- cited a 2011 National Research Corporation survey that found that 41% of about 23,000 respondents reported researching health care decisions using social media tools. Individuals looking up health-related information on social media platforms primarily used Facebook and YouTube, according to the survey (Conn, Modern Healthcare, 1/19).

In their report, ECRI researchers identified 1,068 Facebook pages and 814 Twitter feeds associated with hospitals (CMIO, 1/19).

According to the ECRI report, most hospitals use social media platforms "as an extension of their existing marketing and public plans," while physicians use social media sites to market their practice and themselves and to share personal information.

The report noted that most health care organizations' social media posts and updates focus on:

  • News about the organization or its services;
  • General medical news;
  • Information about the organization's community events;
  • Communicating 'success stories'; and
  • Basic consumer outreach (Modern Healthcare, 1/19).

Opportunities, Risks in Social Media

ECRI researchers cited a list compiled by a nurse of 140 ways to use Twitter for health care-related purposes. The list includes simple uses, such as posting news releases, and complex uses, such as live-tweeting a surgery.

According to the report, disorganized social media approaches can damage an organization's credibility and reputation (Modern Healthcare, 1/19).

The report recommended that health care organizations create a social media plan that outlines the organization's level of social media engagement, its audience and the employees responsible for managing social media platforms (Shaw, FierceHealthIT, 1/19).

The report also recommended that organizations:

  • Create social media plans that require appropriate consent and authorizations, as well as compliance with state and federal privacy regulations (Modern Healthcare, 1/19);
  • Create flexible policies to accommodate new social media; and
  • Include social media in HIPAA training (FierceHealthIT, 1/19).

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