After making the case for social media and highlighting some effective social media initiatives at different hospitals, this next blog installment explains why social media is becoming an essential medium for healthcare institutions.

Why have more than 1,200 hospitals already established a social media presence? 

The reasons are numerous and compelling as healthcare institutions have been forced to employ more and more tools to remain competitive in today’s market. 

As social media enthusiast Howard J. Luks, MD, an orthopedist who serves as chief of sports medicine and arthroscopy at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, N.Y., writes on his personal blog, “In today’s fast-paced world of digital communications, you must be where your potential patients choose to be. You need to enable your patients to tell their stories, to share their experiences with others, and thus provide you with the most valuable form of advertising available.” 

In addition, Luks sees an active online presence as enabling hospitals and healthcare entities to offer helpful content, share health-related information, boost their reputation, humanize the healthcare experience, publicize talks given by doctors and staff, and promote community outreach programs. 

Meanwhile, Ed Bennett, Web operations manager at University of Maryland Medical Center, who offers social media resources for healthcare professionals at his Found in Cache blog, states, “Social media is a conversation. Millions of people use these sites to connect, create trusted circles, and talk to each other. Sometimes they talk about us—our hospital, our staff, and their experiences here. We have to be in the room—the social media site, if we want to be invited into the conversation.” 

In fact, a recent Price Waterhouse Coopers report reveals that:

  • One-third of consumers use social media sites for health-related activities.
  • 40% have sought out reviews of treatments, physicians and other patient experiences.
  • 45% say information gleaned from social media sources would affect their healthcare decisions. 

Similarly, Barbara Ficarra, RN, who produces and hosts Health in 30 radio show, and serves as editor-in-chief for, explains in a guest post for the popular medical blog, “The companies who currently have delved into the social media networking space can find their customers are already there, sharing their health concerns, supporting one another, and seeking better health outcomes. Individuals have the capability to influence their friends about their favorite restaurant, movies, electronics and TV shows; but imagine the power that individuals have to influence their circle of friends, and their friends and so on and so on, about better health.” 

While social media strategies amongst healthcare organizations run the gamut, common social media purposes now include marketing, recruitment, brand management, customer relations, patient education, professional collaboration, healthcare communities, health and wellness, patient monitoring, care management, and clinical trial recruitment. 

Part 4 of our ongoing series will begin offering advice and guidance for effective social media campaigns.