Study: Hospitals Highlighting Their Own Achievements, Instead of Patients’ Interests, on Social Media


Hospitals don’t always keep their patients in mind when posting on social media platforms, according to a study by MIT Sloan School of Management Professor Catherine Tucker and Professor Amalia Miller of the University of Virginia.

According to the report – “Active Social Media Management: The Case of Health Care” – hospitals predominantly post content focusing on observations or achievements of themselves instead of interests of patients.

Only about one-quarter of all posts were patient-focused. This primarily leads to engagement by employees, not patients, according to the report.

Stanford Hospital & Clinic's Facebook page.

Stanford Hospital & Clinic’s Facebook page.

“We find that if a hospital devotes its postings towards client-specific communications, then active social media management can still lead to incremental user-generated content, which is a function of the number of clients. However, most hospitals do not do this. Instead, more of their postings are devoted to either generic observations or to employee-related issues and achievements. Such content appears to inspire primarily the employees at the organization to respond, rather than clients,” the report reads.

According to Tucker, if hospitals want to use social media for internal conversations among employees, there’s nothing wrong with that. However, “if that is the case, human resources – rather than marketing – should be specifically incorporated into the management and funding of social media activity,” she said. The report also says hospitals should use different, private social media groups for internal conversations.

Other findings include:

• Active social media management of Facebook pages leads to substantially more user-generated content, including likes, check-ins, and mentions;

• Hospitals spent 7.4 percent of their marketing budgets on social media in 2012. Large hospitals hire nine people to handle social media management in-house and four from agencies;

• Only 18 percent of hospitals actively manage their Facebook page, and larger hospitals are more likely to do so; and

• Social media posts aimed at employees were focused on benefits, awards, and employee activities announcements. Posts targeted to patients mainly discussed hospital programs to promote health.

Examples of posts targeted at staff included:

“We’re wearing red tomorrow. Are you? Employees at CHSB who wear red tomorrow will get a
free red apple. National Wear Red Day 2012”

“We rolled out the red carpet this morning for Betty Jones, the first employee to ever reach an
amazing 50 years of service at Glens Falls Hospital! In the photo, George Moxham, Director of
Housekeeping and Laundry, presents Betty with a dozen roses.”

At patients:

“It’s Meditation Monday at 5:30 pm! Each week this introductory meditation class guides cancer
patients and survivors through reections and guided imagery. Meditation can help decrease
stress and assist in improving concentration.”

“Stop by the Skagit Valley Hospital main lobby on Monday, July 23rd from 9 a.m. to noon to
have your child’s stroller, car seat or toy tested for heavy metals or toxins. Registered nurses will be onsite to provide information about health hazards.”

At patients and staff:

“The EJ Noble Guild members have been hard at work constructing a buttery garden in front
of the new addition to the EJ Noble Building in Canton. Beautiful!”

“Thought of the day: Believe you can and you are halfway there. Theodore Roosevelt Hope
everyone is having a great week!”

To read the entire report, click here.

Readers, do you follow your hospital on social media? Let us know in the comments below.

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