Social media grows in healthcare as hospitals attempt more outreach

January 4, 2011 by MedCity News

Hospitals had a total of 2,337 social networking sites as of the end of November, and that number looks to grow.

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Hospitals have increasingly turned to social media over the past few years to connect with patients and get their messages out, a trend that’s virtually certain to grow.

To be exact, 809 hospitals have a total of 2,337 social networking sites as of the end of November, according to Ed Bennett, director of web strategy at the University of Maryland Medical Center. The vast majority of those are Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts.

American Medical News recently lauded Bennett for keeping “the closest thing there is to a comprehensive look at hospitals’ social media presence” on his blog.

Social media in healthcare is used to further patient outreach, dispense helpful medical advice, and share their latest news, but it seems that few have moved beyond the basics. Many seem content to merely have a social media presence.

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“Hospitals are still behind the times with social media and only a small percentage are actually involved,” said Alisha Kuyper, spokeswoman for Flagstaff Medical Center in Arizona. “For most of us, we have been using social media as another tool to help us connect with patients and potential patients — not really doing anything innovative.”

However, it’s certainly possible and, for some hospitals, desirable to try new things with social media and make social media an important part of their business development strategies. Here, are a few — though certainly not comprehensive — examples of innovative uses of social media in healthcare.