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Using Social Media to Support Heathcare Events – A Women’s College Hospital Case Study

October 24, 2012

Many of us in the #hcsmca community hold events and integrate social media in the planning and execution. Are we doing a good job? What can we learn from each other? This week guest moderator Craig Thompson, digital specialist at Women’s College Hospital, offers their event as a case study on #hcsmca (with a twist). Craig explains.

By Craig Thompson (@CraigTyyz)

Poster for the Power Study ForumOn Monday, October 22, 2012 my colleagues and I at Women’s College Hospital (@WCHospital) presented “The Power Study Forum – a discussion about cutting-edge issues in women’s health”. This forum featured Women’s College Research Institute scientists who contributed to the POWER Study. This was our first event where social media played a role in both raising awareness and execution.

The following is brief description of the strategy behind our digital communications and social media planning.

Goals – What we hoped to achieve.
Put bums in seats (80 registrations), raise awareness of the POWER Study and the profile of the associated Women’s College Research Institute scientists, and demonstrate the impact digital and social media can have on extending the hospital’s reach and influence in the health care community.

Audience – Who we were hoping to attract.
Researchers, health care professionals, government policy makers

Awareness and Engagement Strategy

This is the process that we thought would create awareness, persuade people to attend and leverage the content.


  • Week -3: Event Awareness/Registration
  • Week -2: Speaker Profiling/Registration
  • Week -1: Audience Enticement/Livecast Options


  • Week 0: Audience Engagement/Livecast


  • Week +1: Event Resources/Links/Satisfaction Survey
  • Week +2: The POWER Study Forum Deconstructed and Disseminated
  • Week +3: Analytics/Debrief

Tactics – The digital communications and social media tools we made use of.

  • Print Collateral
  • Social Media
  • Livecasting
  • Email
  • Extranet
  • Intranet
  • Event Management Software

Successes To Date – What we thought went well.

  1. Putting bums in seats – We surpassed our goal of 80 registrations (103 actual registrations) with an estimated attendance of 120.
  2. Introducing the practical applications of social media – Planted the idea that social media is a practical tool that scientists and researchers could use in their work. By the end of the session, many were very animated about the possibilities.
  3. Debriefing with the transcript – Having a twitter transcript will help identify which points/topics resonated with the audience and allow for better planning in the future.
  4. Pushing our success upwards – Communicating to senior management the success of social media at creating awareness and delivering content will help pave the way for future initiatives.
  5. Debunking myth that social media is for kids – Demonstrated that social media is an integral part of healthcare communications and the more we do with it the better the results.

Lessons Learned – What we would have done differently.

  1. Make no assumptions about social media literacy – Assuming that your audience and/or your panel are familiar with or understand social media is a mistake. Take the time to explain how social media is supporting the event and provide them with speaking notes.
  2. Social media friendly promotion – Using a PDF of the poster as the destination page for tweets, emails and links does not allow for sharing, viewing on mobile devices or analysis. A mobile-enabled microsite with would have worked better.
  3. Hashtag registration – We were late registering the hashtag with the Symplur healthcare hashtag project. This should have been done well in advance of the event. As well, the hashtag should have been promoted on the poster.
  4. WiFi and social media access – Currently the hospital does not allow access to social media site via the WiFi network. Guest bloggers and tweeters had to rely on their cell phones for network access. Better to have provided Ethernet connections or create a dedicated hotspot for the event.

On Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 1PM ET, we’ll explore with the #hcsmca community how social media can successfully engage your audience (staff, general public, patients, physicians, etc.) not only to raise awareness but also to deliver a satisfying virtual experience. During the one-hour tweet chat we will be live polling #hcsmca participants to rate the various tactics.

  • Topic 1: What digital and social media tactics work best at promoting health care events?
  • Topic 2: How can digital and social media enhance educational events and extend their reach?

Here is the transcript of chat 101 on Oct 24, 2012

5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 24, 2012 12:24 pm

    I’m stunned that the hospital blocks social media websites on wifi. How do inpatients access friends, family, loved ones when they need emotional support? Your hospital used to allow it. Frankly, is it even legal or ethical to block access to certain websites? This could put patients in danger by not allowing them to call family for help if (god forbid) a staff person or a random member of the public ever did something terrible. Not everyone has or owns a 3G enabled smartphone or can afford the bill for a cellphone beyond a basic level.

    Never mind educational events….this should be fixed hospital wide. And WCH admin and staff need to know that social media saves patient lives and ensures safety, because it means that women aren’t cut off from the public, and left alone and dependent and helpless.


    • October 24, 2012 3:46 pm

      Hi @aureliacotta, Thanks for your comment. Like a lot of things that appear to have a simple solution, providing patient access to WiFi and social media networks is not one of them. We completely agree with the notion that patient access to WiFi and social media networks is a good thing however until we move into our new building in May 2013 we are working within the status quo.

      This situation has not stopped us from trying to find a fix or thinking of ways to bridge the gap between those that have access via the latest gadgets and those that do not.We make no assumptions that access is universal so try not to leave anyone behind.

      Also a point of clarification. Women’s College Hospital is unique in that we are a 100% ambulatory hospital so have no in-patients. The image of a patient “left alone and dependent and helpless” is any institution is a sobering one.


  2. Editor permalink
    October 24, 2012 1:00 pm

    Reblogged this on Health Care Social Media Monitor.


  3. Anthony Lucic permalink
    October 25, 2012 1:55 pm

    Hi Craig – this has a great read and so very helpful. Thanks for sharing!



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