Facebook for Medical Practices and Hospitals

I will write more in depth on the topic of Facebook for providers, but for now some of my quick answers may surprise you.

1. Not everyone should try to have a Facebook Page – even though almost every marketer on the planet says they should

2. Don’t do it if you are solely doing it because it is “free”

3. Someone (good) has to update and promote your Facebook page – unless you have elves who can do it for you in the night. Facebook pages which do not have anyone good managing them will at best linger vacant, and at worst cause reputation damage.

4. Don’t even think about getting into social media before you have a good compelling website and the basics covered. (Walk before you run)

5. Blowback could be a real problem. Everyone posts happy thoughts, until just one patient isn’t happy. Have a good contingency plans in place.

6. Some practices have a personality suitable for social media to catch on – but a lot don’t. Still, conservative organizations like the AMA do.

7. Some specialties and professions work better than others. Obvious examples include female friendly, high involvement specialties like ob/gyns,  plastic surgery and pediatrics. It will be hard to to get senior men to post about their urologist. (Forgive the puns – there were many others I could have said which were worse.)

8. All that said, Social media offer all kinds of benefits for organized, smart hospitals and practices. Search engine optimization, a way to build buzz, communicate with patients, etc. BUT take the effort very seriously.

Also, thanks to Ragan’s Healthcare Marketing News for this heads up about this social media blogger’s take on 5 Facebook Pages from Medical Practices.

Use Video To Build Relationships With Referring Doctors – Cheap

I saw an article today about a hospital in Akron, OH, that does video webcasts. http://www.medcitynews.com/index.php/2009/12/interactive-media-helps-akron-childrens-hospital-get-out-the-message/

I expect to see more of efforts like these, because they are great exposure for hospitals.

However, there may be an even bigger benefit that no one is talking about yet – video webcasts are be a great, low cost way to build relationships with referring doctors.

After all, you can make your doctors a “star for the day,” and the experience is sure to make their dinner conversation at home.

The costs for informal webcasts can be minimal, though there will be time and effort involved.

Once you’ve conducted the interview, you could also provide the video to the doctors for use on their own site.

We’ll be doing these kinds of things for our clients in the near future.

Anyway, it is a cool idea.

Angry Hospital Residents Take Dispute Online, Questioning Care At Their Facility

There’s nowhere to hide in these days of social media.

Based upon this article http://bit.ly/75uT0i, and the referenced website http://www.examinebarnabas.org/about/, it sounds like this is an inner city Medicaid hospital. Big surprise here, the place sounds like a patient factory, rather than a place for care.

In the old days, bored, indifferent hospital staffs were routine, but now young, educated, and Internet-savvy doctors and patients can get their voice heard worldwide in a few hours.

Welcome to 2010. Hope you have your ducks in a row.

Speed dating pairs doctors and patients

(Note: This post was updated on the evening of Feb 22.)

Saw an intriguing article from the AMA recently about a Texas Hospital who started a speed dating service between docs and patients.

I was so surprised they were able to get the doctors to go along with the idea (it must have felt unseemly to many of them), that I called Mandy Forbus, senior marketing specialist for Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Hurst-Euless-Bedford, to interview her.

In a nutshell, she came up with the idea because she feels (and I agree) that it is hard for patients to choose a compatible doctor.

They started by targeting women looking for OB/GYNs, as obviously women make most of the healthcare decisions for the family.

I asked Forbus about getting doctor buy in, and as you’d expect, most of the early participants were either new or younger.

It did surprise me however, that women doctors opted in first, because male ob/gyns tend to have a harder time getting patients than females (duh). Now that the program has proven successful, however, male doctors are joining the fray (probably don’t want to be left out on a good thing).

The speed dating sessions are open to all admitting doctors, and when relevant, staff doctors.

Patients spend about a half hour in multiple five minute meetings, while doctors do two shifts culminating in about an hour of their time. Most doctors get 1-2 patients from the effort, and some even get referrals from the effort to boot.

Forbus and her colleagues have done four of these speed dating meetings so far (they call them DocShops), and are going to do one for pediatrics in March. These meetings have grown in size, and she feels a good mix is about 10 doctors for 24 patients.

Texas Health has promoted these meetings in a lot of ways, including mailers, publicity, emails, etc.  Interested would-be patients are required to preregister with a call center.

According to Forbus, response has been overwhelmingly positive, admitting doctors are happy and the hospital is building its reputation with patients. What’s more, this effort is consistent with the positioning and brand the hospital is trying to build.

This speed dating could catch on, though by now some of my doctor readers have no doubt thrown up on their computer.

Some doctors will NEVER EVER try this.

Still, the rationale behind the idea has merit. When people choose a primary care doctor, they are often looking for a  long term relationship. Credentials are assumed, and people are more interested in philosophy of care, personality, how the office treats them, etc.

Great idea, Mandy.

Hope this isn’t your patient

This email joke was just forwarded to me. It is both funny and a sad commentary on how patients view our health care system.

A sweet grandmother telephoned St. Anywhere Hospital. She timidly asked, “Is it possible to speak to someone who can tell me how a patient is doing?”

The operator said, “I’ll be glad to help, dear. What’s the name and room number of the patient?”

The grandmother in her weak, tremulous voice said, “Norma Findlay, Room 302.”

The operator replied, “Let me put you on hold while I check with the nurse’s station for that room.”
After a few minutes, the operator returned to the phone and said, “I  have good news. Her nurse just told me that Norma is doing well. Her blood pressureis fine; her blood work just came back normal and her physician, Dr. Cohen, has scheduled her to be discharged tomorrow.”

The grandmother said, “Thank you.. That’s wonderful. I was so worried. God bless you for the good news.”
The operator replied, “You’re more than welcome. Is Norma your daughter?”

The grandmother said, “No, I’m Norma Findlay in Room 302. No one tells me s__t.”

Social media empowers consumers – including your patients

At the end of the movie Terminator, a Mexican boy says, “Viene la tormenta.”

Sarah Connor asks the gas station attendant what he means, and he explains, “There’s a storm coming.”

The fact that patients can leave comments about their doctors or health care organizations on rating sites has been talked about to death, and I’ve been interviewed on the topic on a couple of occasions.

My take: the genie is out of the bottle, and while there are all kinds of legal and ethical issues to consider (how do you know that an anonymous bad rating wasn’t made by a jealous competitor), social media is empowering consumers – and your patients – more every day.

While providers like to think of themselves as a privileged class, Google doesn’t see it that way. In fact, Google and other search engines LOVE ratings and social media when they display search engine results pages (SERPs).

Consumers are now empowered, and some are getting aggressive. The best anecdote I’ve heard about involves a country singer whose guitar was broken by baggage handlers working for United Airlines. When United refused to pay for repairs, he created a very funny video, United Breaks Guitars, on YouTube.  Upon seeing the video, United came around and offered to pay him after all, but by then the damage was done. He suggested they give the money to charity. Worse, this was only his first video on the topic, and as of today it has had more than 7,600,000 viewers. Ouch.

Jeremiah Owyang recently wrote that companies should give priority attention to highly visible web savvy customers. He cites a woman who had a million Twitter followers and warned Maytag to solve her maintenance dispute. When they failed to do so, she asked her followers to boycott the company.

Owyang admits that such consumers can use their new-found power irresponsibly, but how do you stop them once they have such a large podium? Besides, who will be the referee to determine which actions are “power of the people” and which are exploitation?

What really struck me about Owyang’s article, however, was that he reminded us that companies give preferential treatment to celebrities all the time, so we shouldn’t feel bad about recognizing social media leaders.

I have always found it a little annoying that celebrities, who already have everything, get the best gifts and treatment from us all. Still, this phenomenon goes back to at least Biblical times, so it isn’t going to change anytime soon.

So even if you hate the idea of newly empowered patients having a voice, you aren’t going to change it.

Some are trying to litigate this problem away, but frankly, I think that is naive. Our country was founded on “free press,” and “free speech,” and providers aren’t going to get a special pass. (United Airlines didn’t get one…)  Besides, the Groundswell is too big.

So what should healthcare marketers, providers, pharmaceuticals and manufacturers do?

Well, if you have the time and budget, getting into the conversation may be a great idea.

That’s what Johnson and Johnson did with their JNJ Health Channel on YouTube. After all, consumers are going to talk about you whether you like it or not.

However, joining in on the fray may be hard for you to do. If you work in a small organization, you may not have access to the talent, time or budget required. If you are with a large organization, there will be legal and internal issues to deal with. (Rob Harper explains Johnson and Johnson’s experience here.)

I recommend you give your own situation some careful analysis and planning. Don’t just rush in to do it like the rest of the herd – come up with objectives and decide how it fits into your larger strategy.

But one thing is for sure. It is fun to be working in marketing during this revolutionary time period.