A few weeks ago I needed to get in touch with my doctor to go over some questions I had. But when I went to call her office, the line just rang and rang with no answer or message. I thought it was strange, but figured I could just try back later. So the next day I tried again, and the same thing happened. I tried several more days after that with the same result and was very frustrated, to say the least.
Finally, after nearly a week of trying to get in contact with her office with no success, I gave up and called the director of clinics, who I happen to know. She apologized, contacted the clinic’s director, who in turn had the medical assistant call me. I got my questions answered in about five minutes, and went about my day.
It turns out the clinic had moved offices that week, and the staff had taken the time off while the hospital’s physical plant set everything back up. And because it happened to fall between Christmas and New Year’s, connecting the phones had never happened.
While I’m sure this doesn’t happen very often, it got me thinking about how they could have communicated better with me (and the rest of their patients for that matter) about their extended absence. After all, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one trying to call them.
The most obvious way would have been a simple letter letting us know they would be unavailable that week. But the situation would have also been a perfect way to utilize a clinic Twitter or Facebook account.
Communicating with patients is critical. And while I think highly of my doctor and her staff, they failed at the most basic level of communication. And it could have easily been avoided if they used social media.
Social media has changed how we communicate, and judging from blog posts I’ve read, is also changing the patient-physician relationship. That’s why social media is so important, and why it can be an incredibly useful tool for hospitals.
I’m not suggesting that you require your hospital clinics to start a Facebook or Twitter account simply because there’s a chance their phones might stop working. What I’m suggesting is that you consider the ways your physicians currently connect with their patients and what benefits can come from using social media.