Patients Are Your Best Advocates in Social Media

A few weeks ago, some friends and I were talking to a friend who was scheduled to have her wisdom teeth removed. She was not looking forward to it.

Having had my wisdom teeth extracted while I was in college, I assured her that while, yes, it would hurt, the experience was not that bad and she’d be fine as long as she had some easy-to-eat snacks, some movies and Tylenol.

Other friends also told stories about their experiences, and it morphed into a recount-of-every-health-story-we’ve-ever-had conversation.

In the end, my friend thanked us for making her feel better.

Our conversation was not unique. Friends and family members everywhere constantly tell each other stories about their personal experiences, whether it’s a minor surgery, a job interview or a first date. It’s just how we work; when we’ve gone through an experience someone else will go through, we want to tell our story and give them advice and our consolation to make them feel better.

I recently read this story on Boston.com about how patients benefit from listening to stories of those dealing with similar health challenges.

The article discusses a study that revealed patients could better control their blood pressure if they heard stories from people who were successfully controlling theirs, citing that it is easier to understand medical advice given by a fellow patient because it is more believable.

There are several ways you can use this idea in your social media strategy.

Blogging

Invite patients to blog about the treatment they received at your hospital. For example, if your hospital has a weight-loss clinic you can invite patients to share their experience. Many hospitals already enlist patients who have gone through surgery to speak at support groups and informational seminars, so why not bring their stories online? You can also apply this to other departments, such as a cancer center, where patient stories are especially compelling.

A great example of using patient stories on a blog is Children’s Hospital Boston. They have a blog dedicated to telling patients’ stories, which are heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time, but extremely compelling and a great resource for parents who may also have a child with health issues.

Facebook

Facebook is another way you can tell patient stories by facilitating discussions on current topics. Kosair Children’s Hospital does a great job of asking its followers to answer parenting questions about current events. The questions, which include protecting children from toxic household cleaners and preventing bullying, attract parents willing to tell their stories and instantly create an online forum.

YouTube

YouTube is a third way to tell patient stories and perhaps the most effective because others can hear about experiences first-hand. For example, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Instead of having physicians talk about why women over 50 should get a mammogram, invite a breast cancer survivor to tell her story and reinforce why yearly mammograms are important. Of course you can supplement the patient’s story by interviewing oncologists and radiologists, but it’s the patient’s story that will be the most compelling.

The Henry Ford Health System has developed a perfect example of using YouTube to tell patient stories. Their YouTube Channel has a special documentary series titled “I Have Cancer But I Am Not Alone,” which features stories by patients diagnosed with cancer.

By using patient stories to promote your hospital’s services, you are providing a tremendous resource for others. When it comes to our health, there is fear of the unknown, and learning that someone else has gone through what we are experiencing is a way for patients to feel empowered and encouraged.

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