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May 2, 2011

Takes from Twitter: Intriguing hospital tidbits

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Here’s some hospital updates from the ever-flowing well of Twitterchat.  I’m not endorsing the tweeters in question, but I was intrigued by these tidbits:

@EFS_Consultants Medical Wonder: Meet The CEO Who Rebuilt A Crumbling California Hospital

@Stanford: HP pledges $25 million to help Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital carry out a major expansion and conduct new research:

@nicolebrown25  Lawmakers weigh report on New Orleans hospital: The state has committed $300 million in construction money

@anesthesiology2 10 Recent Stark, False Claims and Kickback Lawsuits Involving Hospitals

@TheAuditGroup Four Hospital Action Items for 2011

@Voicemed: 12 Best Practices for Making Hospitals Great Places to Work

@HospitalLayoffs #Hospital #Jobs Hospital Mass Layoffs Dropped Slightly in First Quarter


Gotmore info to share?  Tweet me at @katherinerourke and I’ll take a look.


August 15, 2010

Tweet roundup: Data loss at Thomas Jefferson, med records found in dump

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Happy weekend!  Here’s a group of tweets from the past few days that might be worth a second look.  If you have tweets you’d like to see in our roundup please feel free to share them.


Anne Z.

Tweets for the week of 8/8/10

> @idtexpert #Medical #IdentityTheft Alert: Huge loss of patient data at Thomas Jefferson #University #Hospital in #Philadelphia ;

> @drchrono patient med records found in a Boston dump! sounds like yet another good reason to get an EMR: #emr

> @hcapr Regional Med Ctr of San Jose Uses Pocket-Sized Handout to Improve Quality Scores: #HCA #hospital #cms #healthcare (Hey, I’m intrigued; how about  you?)

> @ShigeoKinoshita RT @ingagenetworks: 3 ways to increase engagement and revitalize your healthcare system #hcsm #health20

> @AndrewPWilson: CDC Gateway to Health Communication & Social Marketing Practice #gov20 #health20

> @HealthYRc Lone bedbug sends Kings County Hospital ER into fumigation lockdown – #New #York #Daily #News#Hospitals#Health >

> @HealthYRc It’s easy to buy babies at govt hospitals – #Times #of #India#Hospitals#Health > (ED: Sounds outrageous but check out the story)


August 9, 2010

Come on, hospitals! Put the social media pieces together!

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Today, in the Baltimore Business Journal, we learn that Charm City hospitals are doing a great deal more social media outreach than they had in the past.  Take health system LifeBridge, the paper says:

The LifeBridge Twitter account and Blogspot blog is updated regularly and provides health care information to patients while its Facebook page is used as a job and career board. LifeBridge also has its own channels on YouTube and ICYou, an online health video source.

These all sound like good initiatives which use the various social media channels appropriately.  It’s clear that LifeBridge is trying to reach out and touch consumers; that it wants patients to be healthy;  that it’s making sure people have access to its job listings and that it’s making an effort to keep people up to date on its activities.

All of which means, well, just about zero if I’m a patient hoping to decide where to have an elective procedure.  Nada. Zip. Job listings?  Meh. Tweets?  Well, I’m willing to be called on it if I’m wrong, but I’m doubting they start thoughtful conversations with consumers.  Health information on video?  Well, I’ll add a few points for the video, as it’s a pretty compelling way to educate people, but just a few.

Bottom line?  Even if they are using the right content for the right pieces, these are a bunch of loosely-connected initiatives that can’t do much to make patients feel safe, comfortable and welcome on their own.  Doing that takes not only a change in content, but also in approach.

It’s time to build social media efforts around a central goal, that of making your key audiences feel connected to your facility. Not informed about what you’re up to (most people who read don’t care about your new parking tower), not educated (there’s a place for that and it’s usually called WebMD) but connected.

That would take a bunch of effort, time, study of what patients, clinicians and staffers want and some serious trial-and-error experimentation. But it would be worth every penny. Try it — I dare you!  You won’t be sorry.


August 6, 2010

Video: The future, pharma-style

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OK, you’ve got me — this video is TOO slick.  It makes your average YouTube video look like it was drawn in crayon by a five-year-old.  Of course, it was created by Novartis, and the pharmas are the kings of slick media production.

I’m sharing this with you not because it says anything novel, though it does bring together some very compelling statistics on the impact of preventable health conditions.

No, I’m passing it along because  marketers and strategists out there might find its (comparatively) soft-sell approach to the value of pharma R&D to be rather interesting.  With social media demanding a new approach to reaching audiences — a voice that suggests and guides, rather than pitches — expect to see pharmas do a lot more indirect selling.

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July 18, 2010

Generating serious ROI from your content — it's no pipedream!

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As I’ve met with current and potential clients and partners, I’ve been lobbing what may be a heretical idea over the fence. The idea? That even though they’re not in the business of publishing newsletters and magazines or writing reports, the content they house can be turned into money, sometimes quickly.  And moreover, that they can measure how much value they’ve generated in real-dollar terms, at least some of the time.

When I say content can be turned to money, I have several models in mind. Some of them are already pretty familiar:

Marketing communications: Taking stories you already have internally — such as case studies on successful outcomes — and getting some publicity. That can certainly  help attract patients, though it’s hard to figure out just which patients were influenced by what  message.  Not hard to pull off, as we’re mostly talking text.

Price: $500 to $2,000 per case researched/written up if outsourced to serious marcomm pros

ROI: Potentially, some measurable increase in use of outpatient procedures which are needed, scary and common, as well as as well as new admissions, especially for specialties like OB/GYN where womend o a lot of shopping.  Wild guess in revenue? $500K per year for a 150-bed community hospital if a few good stories are developed and promoted.

* Recruitment:  Gathering stories from clinical staffers on how the find work-life balance and satisfaction when affiliated with your institution.  That can be a bit more complicated to do, as video, photos and scripts may be called for, but the right presentation can be killer — even viral!

Price: From $500 for a crude effort to $2,000 for a glossier series of profiles with backup campaign involved.

ROI: Again using the example of the 150-bed community, if you brought in even four nurses you’d probably save $200K in recruiting costs.

As for doctors, depending on the specialty the amount could vary widely, depending on what in-demand specialties  you managed to attract, but we both know it’s more cost-effective to find someone who really wants to work with your institution than folks who show up because you throw ’em a big bonus.  If all this strategy does is save you having to come up with another $100K to $150K recruitment bonus, mission more than accomplished.

Is that all you got? Nope!

Next, I’ll talk about less conventional ways to add revenue or save expenses through smart use of the content (and don’t be fooled, I mean waaaay more than editorial content).  We’re talking things as important as changing referral patterns and building community support for controversial new ventures through the use of “social content.”  More to come on this!


July 5, 2010

The next generation of healthcare social content

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If you’re like me, you’re tired of hearing about the entire social media mess– Twitter, Twanger, Facebook, Nosebook, StumbleUpon, FallDown, ClimbUp, YouTube, Tubular Bells, Foursquare, FiveSquare, Friends on a Stick, Digg, Dig-Dugg,  PasstheHat, you name it. 

I’m not going to deny that many of these channels (the ones I didn’t make up to be silly, of course) have some uses. I’ve been known to follow a Twitter conversation via hash tags, enjoy a few threaded conversations on Facebook, connected with some very useful businsess contacts on Linked in and promoted many a blog item on StumbleUpon and Digg. These are good, useful  activities which can sometimes offer real communications value.

But what’s the point of using any of them if all your organization does is pump out the least valuable information it has to offer? Neigborhood events. Cutesy press releases.  Links to clinical research done by your faculty (which is, of course, valuable, but hardly unique to your stream if a true discovery is involved.)  As I noted previously in an item on useless Twitter feeds, social media doesn’t matter if the society you want isn’t listening.

So, enter the notion of “social content,”  information written by pros — sometimes professional journalists in your field — who mine your organization for information that really matters and help present it in ways that build your healthcare organization’s brand. 

Facebook pages, for example, can become places for serious dialogues about health issues, hosted by your organization but run by people who are focused on real substance.  Social content involves real research, study and preparation, like the research and editorial efforts you see turned out by Modern Healthcare or Press Ganey.

Rather than issuing happy-talk nonsense statements, healthcare leaders can develop social content that shares their key concerns and team messages using the social media infrastructure.  These messages don’t involve some sort of tricky, gadgety approach to using social media channels;  they’re just stronger, clearer and far less shallow than what you might have done in the past.

The bottom line?  Creating social content isn’t a Big New Thing — it’s just a method of squeezing far more value into a smaller space and coordinating it with what you say elsewhere.  It’s confident , it promotes your mission, and it’s too damned important to ignore.

If we can help you begin a social content audit — to find out what kind of great content you’ve already got — just let me know.


July 2, 2010

Why don't doctors care what you say?

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Your job depends — at least in part — on communicating with doctors, right?  You need to make sure you  know what your physicians want, see that your business goals are matched with theirs and make sure you win  as much loyalty as possible. And you certainly need to make sure every deal you do with them is kosher, legally  and financially, something that requires just a bit of trust.

And how do most healthcare organizations establish this warm-and-fuzzy connection?  Well, we’re probably talking about a few meetings, a few e-mail messages, some paper mail and maybe a party or two. It’s irresistable!

OK,  sarcasm off.  The truth is, while healthcare organizations do a decent job of reaching out to consumers, I’d give most a C-, at best, at communicating with clinicians.  Executives may attempt to speak to doctors, but it’s from some sort of ivory tower which, as I see it, usually isn’t compatible with straight talk.

So, what to do?  Well, I’ll admit it:  as a media and community dev specialist, I’d argue that it’s time to bring some professional media smarts to the doctor-exec relationship.  A few on-point newsletters with zero fluff, a complete and intelligently designed Web site, thoughtful tweets or a slick magazine — any of these can work.

The bottom line is that whether you go the media route, or just get someone with a gift for plain speech to take a look at your communications strategy, it shouldn’t be an afterthought.  There’s just no excuse for trying to rule by fiat — or pomposity.

And another thought…

You can find videos like these all over the Web:

But how often do you see a video that addresses physicians’ daily needs?  Their business plans?  Their professional expectations?  Seems to me that the communications department doesn’t touch that stuff.


June 28, 2010

Most hospital tweets are useless and stupid

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Hear ye, hear ye,  hospital marketers, I bring you a call to action. It’s time to wake up from the passive slumber you’ve been in and start thinking about Twitter as a strategic tool — as a way to find out what key stakeholders want, to inspire employees, to gather intelligence which can bond patients to your hospital and generally build your business.  It’s not a place to shoehorn your existing content is into a 140-character package.  My God no.

Right now, many hospital tweeters seem to think that Twitter is just another channel for publishing the same dull content they’ve always produced, and it’s killing their public image. Please believe me, because I’d dead serious about this: It’s killing your public image in Twitter-land. Many of you are coming across as slap-happy, unresponsive and, forgive me, actually rather dumb. I know you’re not, folks; I’m just telling you how it looks on our end.

What’s going wrong?  Well, here’s a few specific examples:

*  Twitter isn’t an appropriate venue for community relations messages.  Urging women to get a mammogram, announcing your new diabetes workshop or talking about the groundbreaking on your new parking garage all serve a purpose, but they’re b-o-r-i-n-g  tweets and do  nothing to build a relationship with followers.

*  Twitter isn’t a public relations platform. Who cares, even in your own community, that your maternity ward had a “babies are cool!” event?  Nobody. Once in a while, you may have real news to share — such as, perhaps, if your facility wins a national quality award like the Baldridge — but most of the time, the PR you generate is more for the benefit of your own bosses.  Please, spare us.

*  Twitter isn’t a tool for broadcasting blow-by-blow details of that neat Da Vinci robot procedure you had.  Sorry, guys, but the “tweet live surgery” idea wasn’t great to begin with, and it’s *certainly* played out now.

On the other hand, there’s dozens of ways hospitals can use Twitter to increase their credibility. I realize some of these won’t work for everyone, but they may kick-start some conversations:

*  Ask your followers to submit their most pressing questions about a common disorder (say, diabetes), then have one of your physicians to tweet answers to as many questions as possible. Follow  up the Q&A with a reminder that physicians like these can be found through your doc-finder line.

* Tweet a link to a survey on what services patients would like to see at your hospital. (You’ll find that you get a few responses from people halfway across the world, too, as everyone likes to be asked what they want.)  In the survey tweet, let patients know that they’ll get a reward for responding, such as a low-cost gift certificate.

*Rather than sending out blasts bragging about your own glorious accomplishments, send out tweets offering real medical news that might impact their life.  Act like your institution actually, uh, knows stuff.   If you’re trying to promote maternity services, for example, create a tweet stream updating moms-to-be on the latest advances in the field, suggestions on how to prepare for their birth experience and what they can expect when they arrive at your facility to give birth.

*  Hire an official tweeter with actual hard-news background, perhaps a freelancer with a broad view of the medical world, and let them find and pass along high quality news which increases your reputation among both patients and professionals.

* Create a sub-list of doctors affiliated with your institution (and perhaps those you might want to come over) and have an ongoing conversation with them about their needs and interests.

So, what have you been trying on Twitter?  And how has it worked for you?


June 23, 2010

Smart takes: Hospital social media tips and tactics

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Here’s a neat collection of Tweets offering hospitals some perspective on how to build a social media marketing campaign, with a dash of of our own ideas:

> RT @LindsayMBurke: Amazing list of Hospital Social Media Policies #RNChat #rnchat #hcsm #hcsmeu

AZ:  Here’s an exercise we recommend:  brainstorm a list of five to ten social media policies you’d like to put in place, then read these suggestions. Next, ask yourself what the differences mean.  Our take is that most facilities impose misguided, knee-jerk policies on employees, ones which bear no relationship to how much they trust them otherwise.

> Interesting RT @ERMSquirrel: “If we can trust our hospital staff with sharp instruments, we can trust them with social media.” #hcsm

AZ: Heck yeah, but most CEOs think information is *far* more dangerous. Truthfully, sometimes they’re right, but even so, the problem’s easy enought to address.

> @agsocialmedia A good blog: Hospital Social Media: Fluidity – gauge the engagement: Fluidity – gauge the engagement. Social media…

AZ:  Sounds a bit esoteric, but the bottom line is that you can’t beat any approach to death;  don’t forget to apply the “evaluate and reposition” stage to your communications efforts. And we’re not talking about PR, marketing and social media; we’re talking about the entire way you look about how you talk to *EVERYONE*.  (Rant to follow in future post.)

> @kevinmessina Social Media vs. Traditional Media for Hospital Marketing

AZ:  Always a good idea to look at whether you’ve dragging useless notions from the old media into the news.

@Focus on the social networks that are yielding you the most benefit. Don’t spread yourself too thin over 10 if you can do it with 5.

AZ:  Great, great point.  Many of our customers think communications efforts — including social media — involve shooting at broad targets with metaphoric paintballs. Well, if you do that all you have is a drippy wall that virtually no one sees.

> @nancysiniard Hospital Marketing: Social Media as Customer Service Tool

AZ:  By *all means* read this link above.  While other industries — think @comcastcares — are learning how to communicate with customers through Twitter and Facebook, most hospitals aren’t even doing a good job with incoming phone calls. Hey, use this  moment as a chance to take your entire customer service effort up a notch by a) talking to patients and the community and b) helping internal stakeholders communicate back and forth with customer services.

And finally…some brain food:

> @prsarahevans This isn’t Facebook, but def the coolest hospital social media I’ve seen.

> @appliedart Top 10 takeaways from the Iowa Hospital Association Social Media Conference held on June 10.

July 12, 2009

Theory #1: nextHospitals must serve anyone they can reach

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Until recently, a hospital’s service area was defined almost entirely by the  the neighborhood in which its campus was based.

In essence, hospital executives and board members could choose a physical boundary, be it a county line, a large highway or a ring a few miles in diameter around their facility, and declare that to be their home base.

Today, this approach is is hopelessly outdated.

Of course, hospitals will continue to put their immediate, physical community first, as there’s no getting away from that aspect of their mission. But increasingly, hospitals–like every other business–are being drawn into new relationships fostered by social media tools, mobile phones, YouTube, provider rating sites and more. And it’s time that they use those channels to expand their role.

Many hospital leaders seem to see these tools solely as a channel to blast out their corporate message, but they couldn’t be more mistaken. The people on the other end of these communications, folks, are also your patients.

In fact, this is so much the case that you’ll probably end up sinking big bucks into new communication strategies and technologies, even at the risk of putting off that multi-million dollar pavilion you’d planned to build.

The nextHospital leader will find a way to serve the needs of any patient his facility reaches, by implementing the smartest telemedicine, wellness support, education and virtual support groups available. (And no, we’re not talking static reprints of basic family medical guides you can find on WebMD or ADAM.)

If serving your virtual patients properly means developing a completely different health planning process, so be it.  In today’s world, it’s your responsibility and there’s no excuse to duck it.


So, folks:  Comments? Questions? Complaints?  Facts to contribute which undermine or strengthen my thesis?  Have at it!