Will Another Hospital’s Failure Derail Your Social Media Efforts?

By Jean Kelso Sandlin, Senior Strategist

You’ve been watching the number of hospitals adopting social media steadily increase, and you think you’ve finally convinced your top administrators to consider adopting social media tools to better engage your communities…then the story in the Los Angeles Times breaks. The one that details how hospital employees posted pictures of a severely beaten patient on their Facebook page. You can hear the tires screeching and smell the rubber as your social media plans get stopped in its tracks.

Stories like the one in the Times are horrendous, and rightly get the attention of hospital decision makers. However, the incident could have happened without the hospital having its own social media efforts. From the reports of this incident, it appears that the postings were on personal Facebook pages.

Still, it’s concerning…and it should be. In order to be effective in the treatment of patients, hospitals need to earn the trust of patients, their families and the communities they serve. One great way to do that? Social media. All the reasons that social media can be scary (as in the LA case) – it’s immediacy, wide distribution and accessibility – are also what make social media a great tool for effective and positive outreach.

So how can you help your hospital usher in social media and also plan for the possible conflict of personal social media webpages? By proactively developing policies to clearly define expectations of use. Not only does adopting policies limit legal liabilities, it also starts the conversations with employees about acceptable practices.

Here are a few website resources with links to other social media policies to help get you started.

http://socialmediagovernance.com/policies.php

http://www.thenewpr.com/wiki/pmwiki.php?pagename=Resources.BloggingPolicy

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