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Chat 119 Summary: Social media and healthcare organizations – how and why involve employees?

March 18, 2013

By Fanny Gillet

On March 13th, hcsmca-ers discussed the use of social media in a professional environment and debated about how healthcare organizations can educate their employees and what is at stake (complete transcript). I was looking for articles to understand the situation in Canada about social media and employees and found this New York Times article. While it is a US perspective, I found it helpful for my understanding. Perhaps someone could point out to me in what ways (if any) Canada differs in the context of this article.

The chat opened with

T1: What are health organizations doing to educate employees about representation on social media and encourage them to engage on behalf of the organization? What are the risks?

Researching for that subject online, I found a lot of articles teaching how to build a policy but not explaining how companies can help their employees understand social media. That was also one of the first ideas raised during this chat. Social media in a professional environment is more about what you can and can’t do than training and education.

Organizations first think about protecting themselves and that often means building a policy. The hcsmca community understands that, but after establishing policy, healthcare organizations should also train their employees. Moreover, it seems that when healthcare organizations/associations train their employees, many employees can’t experiment and play with the tools, which is not very efficient.

So, how should healthcare organization improve their employees involvement into social media? First they could observe good and poor example of social media use and see how the positive models could fit with their objectives before jumping in themselves. Also, when organizations’ managers understand the benefits of social media, they can better support and encourage healthy adoption by their co-workers and team members. Finally, everyone should have a good idea of their organization’s philosophy before conversing on social media.

So, why should/are healthcare organizations taking the plunge on social media?

T2: Looking for org/patient/public thoughts on why health orgs need to be on social media. What’s the benefit to you?

During the chat, the community debated about what social media can bring to patients and to organizations, which were distinguished as 2 different perspectives.

First, social media increase the links between patients, allow them to have conversations with a wider group of people with the same issue and to feel more connected and perhaps more able to get answers to their questions or their needs satisfied.

Concerning the organizations, it seems that social media allow them to reach patients and listen to them, and to spread their message. We also saw that it is used as a tool for their classical communications like PR, customer service, marketing, etc.

hcsmca-ers also debated about who should be in charge of social media in the organization. Currently, the role is often a duty of the Communications/Marketing or the IT team. But, as social media usage garners wider acceptance, many felt that anyone within an organization could take on this role as soon as they have something positive to bring to the community.

Finally, the community talked about one of the main elements that organizations are afraid of and may keep them from engaging in social media: privacy. Even though we saw that generally patients are not afraid of sharing information if it can help other people.

So, if I had to sum up this conversation in one sentence, I would say that healthcare organizations have a lot to learn from patients and social media is the perfect tool for that. They just need more time and training to allow their employees to use them and not be afraid of them.

What organization’s social media use would you like to applaud? What changes in practice would you like to see?

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