Health Center News

Social Media and Health Care

Infographic by Docstoc with information from the Pew Research Center
Infographic by Docstoc with information from the Pew Research Center

Social media barely existed a few years ago, but now its usefulness as a tool for communicating and outreach is catching on, especially in health care.   Kaiser Health News reports [see article] that insurance companies are boosting their social media activity “in an effort to amp up their customer service and capitalize on a platform that can serve to mediate, inform and advertise.”  In an age where content can go instantly viral, the insurance companies are also finding social media proactivity can help them manage their brands and do quick damage control, especially when someone has taken to Twitter or Facebook to complain about service or the product.  Interestingly, these social media accounts are separate from the larger company accounts that tow the straight corporate marketing message.  And because of that, these accounts carry a distinctly different conversational flavor.  There is two way engagement — customers’ feedback or complaints are actively fielded and questions are answered.  Does this mean communicating via social media would be a valued tool for your health center?

It is important to consider this option, especially as health centers get ready for a more competitive health care marketplace.   A recent Pew Research survey showed that  81 percent of U.S. adults use the internet and, of those, 72 percent say they have looked online for health information in the past year.  Younger adults and minorities lead the way in mobile searches.  Some 85 percent of U.S. adults own a cell phone and of that group just over 30 percent say they have used their phone to look for health or medical information online.

Increasingly, the business world is waking up to the fact that effective reputation management depends on tracking conversations and feedback around their brand or product online.Yet, Community Health Centers have a mixed relationship with social media.  Many enjoy it as a free tool that can push out mass content instantaneously — but others have avoided adopting it as part of their communications strategy, citing uncertainties about the staff and resources needed to manage social media accounts as well content control.  However, a recent article in American Medical News ( suggests providers who are not using social media could be risking their reputations because they are more likely to be unaware of negative patient reviews posted online. These are important considerations, but also remember that people could be talking about your health center on social media, whether or not you are online.

According to the article providers “need at least a minimal presence [online] to enhance their practices and protect themselves from unfair criticism. Building positive reputations online can offset negative comments, and having a social media presence allows physicians to respond to patients’ comments in a timely manner.”

Here are some web resources for health centers interested in finding out more about communicating via social media. They offer free online help through volunteers.