Why Hospital CEOs need to worry about social media

Image credit: Techcrunch 06/25/15 — Article: A closer look at the silicon valley vs wall street talent war — by Eric Poirier

A hospital CEO might scoff at the thought of opening a Twitter account. “Why on earth would I want to do that? It’s a waste of time. I don’t tweet!” Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram? Those are only for millennials, fedora wearing coffee baristas and Taylor Swift fans. Can hospitals and social media be truly compatible? With a healthcare system considered by some to be more stuffy than social it’s become a talking point of debate.

In Ontario, recent funding reforms and the introduction of the Excellent Care for All Act are playing a key role in how hospitals view the patient care experience. This means that healthcare facilities must find new ways to make their service delivery more responsive to the needs of patients and families. Social media is playing a major role in how consumers interact with hospitals.

So why does social media make hospital CEOs so uneasy? What makes healthcare leaders instinctively run in the opposite direction? It’s the same reason why some execs don’t want their employees to have access to social media accounts or why they don’t want their teenagers on social media. They’re afraid that someone might say something bad about them. Well here’s a news alert. They’re doing it already!

Here are a few quotes about hospital service I found on Twitter:

“This hospital has probably got the worst customer service skills I’ve ever experienced”

“I’m eating Chipotle for lunch instead of gross hospital food. That’s what I’m talking about”

“These nurses are so rude, why be a nurse if you don’t treat your patients right”

Are these tweets about your hospital? If you’re not actively engaging on social media how would you know? Social media gives business leaders a unique opportunity to uncover issues early and address concerns quickly. It’s time for a fundamental shift in their thinking: Hospital CEOs need to worry about NOT being on social media.

Leslee Thompson, CEO of Kingston General Hospital, believes that we have reached a “Copernicus-moment” in healthcare as we realize that consumers are at the centre of healthcare, not revolving around it.

Here are some figures for Canada:

- In the province of Ontario, a survey showed that about 15% of hospital CEOs have their own Twitter account used to inform, educate and engage consumers (Source: mAiRiner Inc.)

- 59% of adult internet users in Canada have a Facebook profile, with almost half accessing the platform more often than once per day (Source: Forum Research Study)

- Nearly 20 million people across all age groups will use social networks in Canada by the end of this year — 18.5 million on Facebook and 6.8 million on Twitter (Source: eMarketer).

This last point should not be overlooked. If you don’t understand social media you don’t understand the new landscape of business. So does this mean that healthcare leaders need to turn in their button-down suits for a charcoal hoodie and skater sneakers? Probably not. However, hospital execs are slowly starting to become more social media savvy.

In Ontario there is a group of CEOs that are upping their social game and giving consumers an entirely new dimension to the hospital experience. Here are 4 standouts:

  • Holland Bloorview Children’s Rehabilitation Hospital — Julia Hanigsberg (@Hanigsberg)
  • Southlake Health — Dave Williams (@SouthlakeCEO)
  • Kingston General Hospital — Leslee Thompson (@Leslee_Thompson)
  • Toronto East General Hospital — Sarah Downey (@SarahEDowney1)

While only a handful of CEOs navigate the unchartered social media waters, a majority of hospital leaders remain in dry dock. I hope this trend changes. Secrecy and rhetoric have been replaced by transparency and authenticity. CEOs must have a working knowledge of the social platforms to compete and stay current.

So how do you get started? I suggest dipping your toe in the water with Twitter. You can start by tweeting updates on current events happening at your hospital, share personal stories from staff and highlight important initiatives. But more importantly, you can connect with patients and families in a far more personal manner. Do this and your community will quickly recognize you as a leader that engages consumers at an entirely different level.

Fortunately, you don’t need to be an expert on every social channel under the sun. However, you do need to understand why your consumers find value in each platform. Before diving in just remember to do these 3 things:

1. Be responsive and create conversations

2. Stay on topic — pick a theme and stick to it

3. Build a community — not just a following

Social media probably isn’t for every CEO, I get it. If you’re not a very social person, don’t take criticism well, or openness is a problem for you then you should avoid social media like the plague. (Read: 10 Reasons You Should Run Like Hell From Social Media http://bit.ly/1FIeNrx)

Healthcare leaders need to stop debating about social media. Its probably the biggest business influence to come in our time. If you’re still wondering if it’s necessary to stay on top of new changes in your industry just ask Blackberry, Blockbuster or Kodak how that’s working for them. Something to think about the next time you listen to Taylor Swift while waiting for your fedora wearing barista-prepared latte.