A “Pulse-Check” for Your Hospital’s Social Media

High-tech but "pulse-free"

In the article Seven Deadly Sins of Business Storytelling, written by Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith, the fourth sin is termed “Pulse-Free.” In their explanation, the authors write, “People connect with other people, so make sure you focus on the real-life characters of your story. It doesn’t matter if your organization designs computer hardware or sells medical devices, human beings are still driving the action.”

In hospitals, many of our services are attached to technology – the new open MRIs, SmartArc technology for more precise radiation treatments, digital mammography, lightspeed CTs… the list goes on.

To highlight their new services, hospital marketing departments often post pictures of the equipment from the medical technology companies on their website. Then they “get social” and post the release on their Facebook page, Twitter account or maybe include a YouTube video of a spinning CT machine doing a full 360.

Take a look at photos from Phillip’s Nuclear Medicine technology or GE healthcare products. They are sleek and high tech looking … and sterile–“pulse-free.” And even when they include people, they are airbrushed, smiling and floating in a white noise background.

So send a code blue team to your hospital’s website and social media efforts and do a pulse-check. Analyze the news releases and social media efforts undertaken in the last three months. How many are code-blue “pulse-free” (no people, only equipment or facility images, no stories) or maybe just a “code yellow” (models in staged photos, only expert opinions, no “real” people or their stories).

Grab the paddles, here are a few ways to strengthen the pulse of your social media efforts:

Solicit real photos of outcomes

Invite your patients to send in photos engaging in a favorite activity post-surgery or post-procedure. (Isn’t that what health care is all about…what it enables us to do after!) This works well with hospital centers.

For example, your joint replacement center might ask the avid golfer for a photo of the first time he’s golfing after his hip replacement; or the cardio team can request the runner to take a photo on her first jog. You can solicit photos on your social media sites, but don’t expect it to happen without cajoling from the staff that is closest to the patient.

Stop the editor, leave in the details

Many hospitals have learned the power of testimonials, but still make the mistake of editing out those “needless” and “wordy” details. The research I am currently involved in seems to indicate that those details professional editors might edit out (“I stopped at Starbucks for a Skinny Vanilla Latte” becomes “I stopped for coffee”) add to the authenticity.

Tap support groups

Support groups “get it.” They know that community can encourage engagement and even facilitate healing. Work with support group leaders and ask participants for their ideas on how to present those benefits via social media.

Something as simple as “the two most important take-aways from our support group meeting this week were…,” being shared on various social media platforms can reflect the real voices of those involved in the group while still respecting their privacy. (Don’t be surprised if a few group members become excited about the social media effort and want to take it further. Encourage them.)

Link to feature stories

If you have a local paper, it’s not uncommon to read a feature story of someone in the community dealing with a health challenge or how they’ve turned the challenge into a positive experience. Get permission to link to it, and use it in your social media outlets.

Run after the runners (and walkers)

Many hospitals have 5K or 10K runs or walks to raise funds for health-related causes. Bring your camcorder and hang around the registration table. Ask people to share their stories as to why they are participating in the fundraising event. You would be surprised how many heartwarming stories you’ll hear. (Bring plenty of permission slips so interviewees can immediately give their OK to share their stories.)

Share letters

We know many of our older patients still hand-write letters of thanks. Share them, like CHA Widden Hospital Campus does.

Consider making the letters more relevant to the patients by grouping the letters around the service they’ve received; or warm them up even more by soliciting photos and present the letters in hand-written form with a photo “clipped” to the letter. Let the hospital staff know that you would like them to share any letters they receive (nurses receive many!), and seek patient permission to reprint them.

Invite questions

Okay, if you must, go ahead and post the newest piece of equipment with its gleaming white high-tech look; but give it a pulse by inviting people to ask questions about the equipment and the service it will improve or expand.

You can jump-start this procedure by having nurses ask how the new technology will impact their patients. Share the idea with the techs and solicit their help by having them record the questions they get in-person from real patients. You can even prepare a form where they can seek permission from the patient to share the question online.

Add more warmth to your social media efforts by having an expert staffer (physician or tech) personally answer their questions in short video clips. (Think of the Old Spice Man’s Internet response campaign.)

Make sure you have written permission

Remember, anytime you post photos, stories or quotes, follow HIPAA guidelines by getting written permission.



For more details on social media and HIPAA concerns, you can download our free e-book, Nine No-Nonsense Rules to Ensure a HIPAA-Compliant Social Media Strategy.



2 replies
  1. Yamini
    Yamini says:

    Love this post on putting the pulse back into social media. You might be interested in how Toshiba Medical systems did this with the global launch of their new CT system, by introducing it through two patients David and Susan. http://tiny.cc/6esn9


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