Healthcare and Social is a fast-changing landscape. While Biopharma manufacturers have been slow to adopt social strategies and presence many hospitals use Twitter aggressively to engage with their patients, and influence hospital choice through seeking satisfaction comments. This is certainly true with “Likes” on hospital Facebook pages. But a “Like” in some ways is more passive than a posted Tweet. The Tweet is often a more immediate post hospital care reaction and has a ripple effect. Amazingly enough, as of early 2015, nearly half of all U.S. hospitals have Twitter accounts.
One study, which was published this month in the journal BMJ Quality and Safety, (http://goo.gl/dkkmB7) examined whether Twitter could be a reliable, real-time indicator of hospital quality. The study, researchers crowd-sourced U.S. hospital Tweets to determine whether their overall sentiment could denote quality of care.
The study found a positive sentiment correlation to the use of Twitter. They also observed that smaller hospitals in more rural settings had deeper engagement, which makes sense as a local issue. But a true disconnect was unearthed: Twitter sentiment was not associated with Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) ratings but just having a Twitter account was. So, while positive engagement helps the hospital brand equity and reputation, the government’s own ratings do not yet measure it. So why have a Twitter account? Simple: engagement drives business in a world of customer-focused healthcare insurance.
Another study concluded that Twitter had a very positive impact on the overall goal and metrics the hospitals use. From “Tweeting and Treating: How Hospitals Use Twitter to Improve Care.” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26217995), Dr. Frederick, July 2015.
“Savings opportunities are generated by preventing unnecessary office visits, producing billable patient encounters, and eliminating high recruiting costs. Communication is enhanced using Twitter by sharing organizational content, news, and health promotions and can be also a useful tool during crises. The utilization of Twitter in the hospital setting has been more beneficial than detrimental in its ability to generate opportunities for cost savings, recruiting, communication with employees and patients, and community reach.”
As it turns out, Twitter is also a pretty good gauge of hospital quality. The study found that “hospitals that people liked on Twitter were also doing better at not having patients come back within 30 days – one of the indicators of care quality.” Why is this hot? Adoption of Social in Biopharma manufacturers is far behind that of hospitals. Also, hospitals are being held to ever-increasing quality-of-care metrics – these metrics act as badges of honor but are needed to attract patients to their services. If they keep patients from being re-admitted to the hospital within 30 days, the Affordable Care Act rewards them with higher reimbursement. Also, hospitals are pioneering what sort of content engages patients and community. Look at Mayo Clinic, they have 1.23 million Followers. True, they are a world-class brand, but it shows what is capable and a hunger for connection. Biopharma should watch hospital Twitter experiences very carefully.
In terms of content, an expert on the topic weighs in…
Alicia Daugherty, who works with the Advisory Board’s Marketing and Planning Leadership Council, points out several key strategies for hospitals that are trying to maintain vital, active Twitter feeds: “It’s all about relevancy–the care experience prompts patients to follow the hospital, and then it’s up to the hospital to sustain their attention with interesting, useful content,” Daugherty says. She separates hospitals’ most engaging tweets into three common categories:
- Practical health advice: Daugherty notes this is easy to offer, although Twitter is somewhat saturated with health tips and tricks.
- Unusual or counterintuitive information: These tweets can be more interesting, but harder to provide on a regular basis.
- Content that sparks a conversation: However, the most active discussions may center on controversial topics–and that’s “usually best avoided” for hospitals, Daugherty concludes.
As an example, just look at what the Cleveland Clinic has on it’s page today…education, help, hope.