Leveraging social media for proactive patient outreach

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At this year’s Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM) Annual Meeting, one of the most popular sessions was titled, “Advances in Patient-centered Medicine.” The presentation focused on the growing popularity of electronic consultations (e.g., webcam), as well as the importance of Imaging 3.0 initiatives such as image sharing. But it was the portion of the session devoted to leveraging social media for patient outreach that really set hearts a-twitter (no pun intended).

The session and its robust attendance reflected the growing recognition that blogging sites and social media platforms—such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook—can provide imaging providers with many low-cost opportunities for marketing their practices and communicating with current and prospective patients for enhanced patient care.

If you’re among the clinicians who remain skeptical of embracing social media, consider the experience of the Radiology department at the University of California San Francisco. UCSF radiologists, especially younger physicians already familiar with social media in their personal lives, began blogging in 2010 to educate referring physicians and patients about radiology and its usefulness in healthcare. The response was so great that the department soon began leveraging Facebook and Twitter to drive even more traffic to the blog.

Comparing the period between January 2012 and October 2012 with the same period in 2013, Cathy Garzio, M.B.A, administrative director of the department of radiology and biomedical imaging, writes that:
 
  • Total visits to the blog rose from 8,841 to 28,145 visits (an increase of 218 percent).
  • Total blog article views grew from 13,250 to 35,716 visits (an increase of 170 percent).
  • The department attracted 2,028 followers on Twitter.
  • 18 Tweets were re-tweeted each month; eight Tweets per month were bookmarked as Favorites; and nine Tweets per month included mentions from blog.radiology.ucsf.edu.
  • Blog posts generated 329 “Likes” on Facebook.

The department has since created a YouTube channel to expand its video presence and also begun sharing its blog via Google+, in order to share helpful information for patients to manage their care.

Get social
It’s not difficult to get started in social media. At the SIIM Conference session, presenters offered several pearls of advice for leveraging social media. Among them:
 
  • Participate on all the major platforms (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram) to reach every kind of user. We’d like to add that if you can’t do it all, that’s OK. Perhaps choose two or three to hone in and do well.
  • Update content regularly and permit visitors to comment easily. This helps create a comfortable environment for engagement and interaction.
  • Leverage pictures and video to illustrate procedures and educate patients on preparing for them. We live in a visual world, and we—of all people—should know that pictures are worth a thousand words.
  • Enlist colleagues and other staff to contribute and manage content. Ensure that messaging is consistent across your team, but the more thought leaders you have, the more comfortable your patients may feel with creating a relationship via social media. 

There’s no getting around it—social media is here to stay. And as we learned at SIIM, patients are heavy consumers of social media and increasingly rely on it to educate themselves about their healthcare. It makes sense for imaging providers – as an integral part of patient care – to be there as well.

How have you been leveraging social media across your healthcare organization or imaging department?

Don’t forget to follow us on social media too: On Twitter @MergeHealthcare or on Facebook www.facebook.com/MergeHealthcare.
 
 

Originally posted on: 8/1/2014 8:37:58 AM

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