Do Your Hospital’s Social Media Efforts Show Empathy?

flickr: alancleaver_2000

One of our core values at Hive is “Be Real,” one that we emphasize when talking to our clients about social media.

It’s an important value to have, because the act of understanding another person’s situation, feelings and motives can take an otherwise hostile or tense situation and turn it into a positive one.

I recently read an article published in Psychology Today titled “I Feel Your Pain: Why empathy, compassion and altruism are not just for softies.”  The article discusses how to show empathy, and when one might do so.

I identified a lot with this article because it’s how I try to approach my life each day. Before getting mad or upset with someone, I do my best to put myself in their shoes and understand what may be motivating them to act in a particular way.

This is incredibly important for anyone who is managing your hospital’s social media accounts, because, as the author points out in his article, “What matters is not whether we have empathy, but whether we know how to have empathy-whether we can access feelings of empathy when we want to do so.”

There are a few ways your hospital can express empathy throughout your social media campaigns:

Empathy opportunity #1: Your general approach to social media

The purpose of a social media account, whether it is a blog, Twitter, Facebook or YouTube account, is to understand the needs of your patients and to communicate with them. Be sure to put yourself in the shoes of your patients when deciding which accounts to use.

If your patients would benefit more from a blog than a YouTube channel, start a blog. If they need a place to communicate with each other, start a Facebook page. This is an especially good approach to take if you are unsure of what type of account to start and don’t have enough resources to try them all.

Empathy opportunity #2: Responding to negative comments

It is incredibly important to practice empathy when responding to a negative comment on your hospital’s blog, Twitter or Facebook account. Patients may be upset because of how they or a loved one were treated, and being defensive will not make patients feel like they have been listened to.

I’ve written before that good news travels fast, but bad news travels faster, and if you respond to a negative comment without first putting yourself in your patients’ shoes, the consequences could be detrimental to your hospital’s online reputation.

Empathy opportunity #3: When you want to connect with your patients

One of the strengths of physician blogger Wendy Sue Swanson, author of Seattle Mama Doc, is her ability to relate to and then write about issues that matter to her readers.

She writes blogs under the category “If it were my child,” in which she puts herself in a particular situation as a parent and then writes about it. When she publishes these posts the number of responses is astounding, and it’s all because she puts herself in the shoes of her readers and gives them her perspective.

So whenever you want to connect with your patients, think of questions, topics, etc. that matter to them and then address them.

Hopefully these examples will help you connect with your patients on a personal level and, as a result, help you form an even stronger online community.

2 replies
  1. Dan Hinmon, Principal
    Dan Hinmon, Principal says:

    Thanks for your comments, Jason. I agree completely with the importance of listening!
    Kelly has done a terrific job for us at Hive, but she’s moving on to a new opportunity this week. Watch for her farewell blogpost tomorrow summarizing some of the key lessons she has learned.

  2. Jason Boies
    Jason Boies says:

    Very thoughtful piece Kelly.

    If there is any group of people most in need of a little empathy, it stands to reason it’s probably those seeking out healthcare solutions.

    Empathy isn’t cultivated from reviewing surveys or analyzing follower counts, it develops from actively engaging with customers/patients and social media makes this easier than ever.
    A hospital blog with an open comment forum, a Facebook wall, a twitter feed; all opportunities to simply LISTEN to your patients.

    Good Stuff!

    Jason Boies
    Radian6 Community Team


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *