Social media companies have been hot topics even before Facebook went public. With the likes of Disney, Microsoft, Salesforce.com, and Google all rumored to be considering an acquisition of Twitter, the topic has grown considerably warmer.
But social networking is more than a subject for high stakes speculation. It isn’t an elaborate toy for millennials and the tech set. Social networks have become a critical tool for businesses trying to stay in touch with customers, people looking for important information, recommendations, reviews, and political speech.
As has happened in many industries, social networking has become part of the fabric of the healthcare industry. Doctors and their patients have adopted the systems for personal or professional benefits, as Dr. Sunny Vikrum Malhotra, a New York cardiologist, has written:
In our technology-driven society, many patients make their health choices based upon the direction they receive from peers, colleagues and role models via social media. As a result, social media has altered the way in which patients approach their health and their expectations in clinical care.
Physicians, too, have begun to use social media to their advantage as a professional networking tool, as a form of education for physicians, patients and students, and as a marketing tool.
For patients, Twitter and Facebook provides a conduit to experiences of others who may have the same conditions or have personal knowledge of a doctor, clinic, hospital, or other facility or caregiver. Doctors, or other healthcare practitioners, can respond to questions, build a perception of helpfulness and expertise, and discuss their practices.
But the use of social media in healthcare expands beyond these groups. Some like Bryan Vartabedian, a pediatrician at Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children’s Hospital, argue that hospital administrators should have a presence on social media as well. Administrators can work on behalf of their organization to develop an audience of patients, certainly. The marketing opportunities are broad, of course, as are the chances to display the organization’s brand. But strong use of social networks also provides the chance to reach employees and help them be brand ambassadors. Social networks are an important step for building networks of other practitioners and professionals, which can pay dividends when it comes time to recruit a new employee.
Administrators should first spend time, trying to understand which social networks are best for the field and then how to most effectively use them. But then, get involved, experiment, and help move things forward.
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