Want to Boost Your Hospital’s Social Media Strategy? Watch TV!

Couch potatoes…this one’s for you.

So you’re an average American, kicking back after a long day’s work and catching an episode or two of your favorite TV drama. It’s entertaining…and packed full of health lessons. Yikes! Health lessons from a TV drama? When you’re in healthcare, this study may be difficult to stomach, but the facts are that while viewers may not consciously watch fictional programs to learn about health information, many do.

flickr: .reid.

For example, after an episode of ER that had a short vignette (less than 1 minute) that depicted nurse Carol Hathaway seeing a teenage patient who is diagnosed with cervical cancer and explains that it can be related to the sexually transmitted disease HPV, viewer recognition of the disease jumped 23% percent the week following the show. Thirty days later, their recognition of the disease remained 14% higher than pre-show rates.

More than half of the show’s regular viewers said they learned about important health issues from watching the show and talked with family and friends about the health issues that were addressed on the show. One in seven viewers said that they’ve contacted a care provider about a health problem because of something they saw on the show, and 8 percent said they sought additional information from friends, family members, books or magazines. This is not a new study – it was published nearly a decade ago in Health Affairs. What’s different today is social media.

How can a hospital’s social media strategy be impacted by the results of this study? Since we know fictional storylines in TV shows and movies move people to seek information – and 60% of adults have accessed social media related to health – position your hospital to be the provider of that information.

If you see a show or movie with a medical storyline, blog or tweet about the show. Comment on whether it provided factual information or not, and point your readers to your hospital’s information. You can video an interview with one of your physician specialists and post it on YouTube.  Prepare a brochure that people can download from your website. Provide a quick link to screening information on your website’s home page or Facebook page for a few weeks after the movie’s release or the TV show airs.

According to the study’s authors, “Entertainment television reaches a wide audience, and in the end, whether one feels that entertainment television does more good or more harm, it will continue to convey health information to its audience whether by design or by default. This study shows that the content has an impact on that audience. It seems, therefore, worth the effort to try to make the content as accurate and science-based as possible, and to take advantage of opportunities to convey public health messages that can improve health and sometimes save lives.”

Yes, it can start on TV or at the movies, but your hospital can use the piqued public interest to share related health information (that’s more credible) through social media.

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