Can Social Media Save Your Hospital from Being Sued?

flickr: zzpza

There are many reasons to adopt social media tools for your hospital or healthcare clinic–patient engagement, patient support, positioning your centers of excellence, showcasing your medical staff’s expertise, highlighting new treatments among interested communities. Now there may be one more reason–helping your hospital avoid litigation.

That’s the focus of a recent paper by Michael Tristan Morales. In Social Media Campaigns as an Emerging Alternative to Litigation, Morales discusses the place of litigation and social media in society, and explores litigation’s effectiveness in securing relief for disaffected plaintiffs.

He also discusses social media as “a powerful weapon” for both groups and individuals to “vindicate particular interests.” His paper considers how social media might serve as an alternative to private litigation.

Morales writes, “At a very basic level, this paper is about the emergence of an informal network of (online) community control that might effectively compete with the formal mechanisms for resolving disputes.  In some sense then, the paper is about the possibility that something new–the Internet–might allow us to restore something old–meaningful informal alternatives to private civil suits.”

Morales rightly concludes that the structure of social media adds value by organizing large numbers of participants to share information. Using two case studies–Dell and United Airlines–he illustrates that reputations are key to large organizations and that, with social media, they are easier-than-ever to attack. In both cases, the complaints were aired and settled using social media.

In hospitals and healthcare clinics and agencies, the marketing department is often viewed as the “keeper of the reputation.” If attacks on organizational reputations can lead to litigation, then it makes sense that the tools that can impact reputations be used to address concerns prior to them leading to litigation…and social media provides those tools.

Although Morales’ paper does not address healthcare specifically, his considerations are interesting to ponder, and it’s a good reminder for all of us to tune-up our hospitals’ social media “listening tools” and be ready to respond immediately to negative comments.


How we help

Hive Strategies helps hospitals engage patients through social media. We don’t manage social media. Instead, we help hospitals develop an effective social media strategy and mentor them through the implementation process. Read about our services. Start a conversation. Email us or call us at 503-472-5512.

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