Three Things Your Hospital Should Look for in the Age of Social Media

January 10, 2017 Oi Hua Lee

If your holiday was anything like mine, a good portion of it was spent sitting around a table with good friends and family, catching up with one another and gorging on delicious foods. Until of course, you’ve eaten so much that even stealthly unbuttoning your pants can’t save you—at least until someone offers you cake. This year, however, I noticed something peculiar happened as the food coma set in. The room that only moments ago was filled with conversation and laughter grew oddly quiet. With a simple glance around the table, it was easy to see that—as the song goes—everyone from one to ninety-two were tapping and scrolling away on their phones!

By now it likely goes without saying, but for my own sake i’ll say it anyways, that it seems fairly obvious the internet and its offspring—social media—is here to stay. And while any millenial within 100ft radius of you can tell you what's great about social media, what about the things you need to look out for? 

Patient Complaints
Let’s start with the most obvious. As a public forum, social media makes your hospital vulnerable to patient complaints. Wait times too long? It’s on Twitter. Rude Nurse? It’s on Facebook. You get the idea. There’s no fighting it, if an individual feels compelled to do so, they will and can post. What’s more, not only have these complaints made its way to social media, but they’re gaining traction, being shared, and sympathized with—it’s developing a following. 

There’s little you can do to stop this from happening, they are after all opinions. What’s for certain is that you don’t want to ignore any negative post. Let them know that you’ve heard them, that the hospital will look into  the matter, and if need be the hospital will improve things when and if they ever visit again. At the organizational level, these posts can provide insight to situations or behaviours that you might have otherwise been unaware of. 

Employee Posts
The second, perhaps less obvious, one that you need to be wary of are negative posts made by staff. It only takes one overworked and disgruntled staff member to post something, anything, for people to question the quality of your organization. Not to mention, if they posted something about an “annoying patient,” surely even you wouldn’t want to go to a hospital that views its patients as such. 

Legal Matters
On the claims side of things, it can be just as detrimental. Imagine for a moment if a patient or family member was suing the hospital for an incident that occurred. A quick check of the social media accounts of those on staff that day reveals that at that moment, rather than tending to the patient, they were engaged online. Just like that, with a click of a button, the smoking gun they needed against the hospital. 

In such cases, a clearly communicated code of conduct can help. Policies that provide a clear explanation of what the hospital views as appropriate posts, and defines cell phone use while on shift. What’s more, it’s important to offer your staff safe spaces to talk about their frustration with either the hospital itself or with patients—and most importantly let them know they are being heard. 

It’s the age of the internet, there’s no denying it, and we’re likely to get more connected than less. So as they saying goes, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em! What’s that you say? The internet is vast, and you want to know how you you can keep on top of everything people are saying about your organization? We recommend you use social media tools like Hootsuite, Buffer and Oktopost that can keep a look out and can pull all posts related to your hospital into one convenient platform. 

Wondering how you can start leveraging social media at your organization? Check out: Three Reasons Social Media has EVERYTHING to do with Patient Experience.

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