By Jean Kelso Sandlin, Senior Strategist
If you are advocating for updating your hospital’s communication plan with social media and online tools, you may share a concern that Dr. David Blumenthal, who leads the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at the Health and Human Services Department. He is charged with encouraging every physician’s office and hospital to use electronic health records by 2014. As you can imagine, Dr. Blumenthal’s technical challenges are many, but what he describes as his “overwhelming challenge” is skepticism.
In an interview with FederalTimes.com, Blumenthal said, “Our overwhelming challenge is that we have to convince skeptical, busy hospitals and doctors that they should adopt electronic health records and use them in a way that will qualify them for the incentive payments that we are offering.”
You and Dr. Blumenthal have a lot in common. As you muddle through the technical issues of implementing new communication tools, you have to convince skeptical and busy hospital administrator and doctors that they should adopt these new tools. It’s easy to get sidetracked by technical issues, but it’s important to think about how to dispel the skepticism. Skepticism, and its power to slow or block innovation, should never be underestimated. Here are a few tips to start chipping away at the brick wall of skepticism.
1) Meet individually with skeptics first. With individual meetings, you can avoid the “group think” encounter where a handful of vocal skeptics take over a meeting and leave the impression that “everyone” is against the idea. At this point, don’t try to defend…simply listen to their concerns.
2) Once you are ready to confront their concerns, speak their language. If they are patient-centered, demonstrate how the adoption of social media can help patients; if they are concerned with budget, talk cost savings.
3) Use successful examples. Sharing what other hospitals have accomplished in social media can be a real motivator, especially if they are a competing facility.
4) Don’t belittle their fears – address them.
5) If they are risk-averse, point out that communication risks are everywhere, not just in social media spaces. For example, now that newspapers are online and readers can comment on stories, there is a risk of an unfavorable comment appearing on their website. (A great time to discuss the helpfulness of being in the “social media” space to you can react faster to these types of concerns.)
6) And lastly, fight skepticism with evangelism. As important as it is to seek out the skeptics, it’s just as important to seeking out the evangelists … maybe the innovative physician who has a blog or center that started an online community support group. Provide venues for these supporters to share their optimism and good results about social media.