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Social Health: 10 Hospitals Leading the way in Medical Social Media

Imagine a new medical discovery spreading across the planet in the blink of an eye, an epidemic prevented by instantaneous global awareness, a hard-to-treat condition discussed in real-time with experts weighing in from all over the world -- this isn't some science fiction future of social media in health care. This is today's reality. With doctors, nurses and hospitals alike moving into the social sphere at a prodigious rate, and medical records made instantly available electronically, both you and your care providers have an unprecedented ability to share knowledge and work toward a healthier future for everyone.

Health care social media is gaining momentum quickly, thanks to a number of hospitals whose dedicated staffs are pushing the boundaries of what social media can do and redefining the patient/provider relationship in the process.

What is social health?

  • Boston Children's Hospital has the most likes on Facebook of any hospital in the world (over 720,000), not to mention the largest research enterprise based at a pediatric hospital. Its motto "Until every child is well" speaks to the level of commitment apparent in all of its endeavors. Every one of its many social outlets is filled with grateful endorsements from current and former patients. Its helpful and informative posts cover big issues and big innovations, demonstrating just how large a part of its community it is.

  • Geisinger Health System is a network of health care providers serving 2.6 million nationwide, boasting 26 accredited residency programs -- and it all started at one hospital in Danville, PA, in 1915. When it had trouble finding a new gastroenterologist, it took its search online and reached out to its thousands of fans and followers in a groundbreaking (and successful) use of health care social media. Today, Geisinger is still on the leading edge -- it even has an app that allow patients to check medical information, communicate with doctors and nurses, view appointments, and receive health reminders.

  • Greater Baltimore Medical Center was founded in 1965 with a focus on outreach, education, clinical services and partnerships with local organizations. When a local news station incorrectly reported that the hospital had been infiltrated by an armed gunman, the staff at GBMC leapt to it, sending the all-clear to its tens of thousands of fans and followers online. It uses its social media channels for community and media relations, customer service, crisis communication and even human resources.

  • Massachusetts General Hospital has tweeted about health issues ranging from C-sections to eating chocolate -- and that's just in one week! When you look at its social stream packed with useful information and loads of interaction from thankful patients, it's no wonder that it was recently ranked as the No. 1 hospital in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.

  • Mayo Clinic is often hailed as the poster child for health care social media. So connected is this iconic hospital that it has actually created its own, roughly 10,000-strong, social network -- and that's above and beyond its 500,000+ followers on Twitter and more than 350,000 Facebook fans (for which it also has separate, successful, Spanish-language accounts). For the Mayo Clinic, social media isn't about marketing -- it's about outreach, education and research.

  • The Nebraska Medical Center, Nebraska's largest health care facility, has a presence on Instagram, regularly tweets to its nearly 2,000 followers, gets rave reviews from its almost 10,000 Facebook fans, and has a staggering presence on YouTube, with a large number of its helpful and informative videos getting tens of thousands of views. It's ranked as the No. 1 hospital in Nebraska by U.S. News and World Report, with national rankings in five other categories.

  • Scripps is a private, nonprofit health system with more than 7,000 Facebook fans and almost 15,000 followers on Twitter -- and both accounts are filled with regular posts and glowing interactions with current and former patients. Its chief academic officer, Eric Topol, was just on The Colbert Report to discuss hospitals, mobile technology and the future of medicine.

  • Texas Health Resources uses social media to connect with clinicians and encourage adoption of electronic health records via vast, internal networks to help doctors learn how to use the systems and collaborate. Its public social media efforts aren't too shabby either, with more than 10,000 fans and followers. It even has a presence on Pinterest, where it shares recipes for healthier living, pictures from parties and holidays, fitness tips and much more.

  • UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital had a groundbreaking social media campaign recently, which challenged teams of donors to help it raise money for new facilities. This attracted the interest of social-gaming giant Zynga, prompting it to offer players of its megahit Farmville the opportunity to buy candy canes for use in the game (with real money) to show support -- netting the hospital over $805,000 in donations. Its social outlets are plastered with gratitude and praise.

  • University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences surgeons Philip L. Glick, M.D., and Sami Yamouk, M.D., co-authored an article titled "Making Social Media Work for Surgeons and Patients" detailing their desire for surgeons to add their voices to social media and online discussions. They want to see social media used to its full potential to pass on information and new knowledge instantly to other surgeons and trainees everywhere. The School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences itself has an incredibly informative Facebook page, providing a comprehensive example of its dedication to sharing knowledge.

The teaching value of medical social media is still untapped, but it's growing with leaps and bounds. As hospitals and other health care institutions continue to offer current and former patients more and more support, as well as information and the opportunity to communicate openly, the possibilities for growth are endless. The future of medical social media looks healthy.

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