Gatewatching: A Social Media Strategy for Hospitals

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Most of you who have been considering social media use in your hospitals are likely aware that 80% of Internet users seek out health information online (Pew Research).

Before Internet dominance, the public only received information after it passed though the restrictive system of editorial boards. Editors and their boards served as gatekeepers of the news–deciding what was “news” and what wasn’t.

Today, the Internet offers greater access to information, and with greater access comes questions of credibility. The Internet has also created information overload. For example, a quick Google search of “cancer” gleaned 751,000,000 results.

Consider gatewatching as a model for engaging communities

One concept that may help hospital staffs as they consider a model for engaging their communities in social media is gatewatching. I was reminded of the concept of gatewatching today when Christian Sinclair (@ctsinclair) tweeted that he had quoted me in his Storify story “Health Sector Advisory Council Spring 2012 Meeting.”

If you’ve not been introduced to Storify yet, it’s a year-old social media tool that, according to their own description, “lets you curate social networks to build social stories, bringing together media scattered across the Web into a coherent narrative.” Storify is intended to “amplify the voices that matter and create a new media format that is interactive, dynamic and social.”

I am not sure if co-founders of Storify (Xavier Damman and Burt Herman) are familiar with the work of Professor Alex Bruns (of Queensland University of Technology in Australia), but their concept of curating news from various sources reminds me of Bruns’ concept of gatewatching.

Gatewatching vs. gatekeeping

Bruns contrasts gatewatching with gatekeeping. Gatekeeping refers to the tightly controlled editorial process through which information must travel prior to getting distributed (such as in the case of a traditional newspaper).

In contrast, gatewatching is audience-driven in both news selection and creation. According to Bruns, traditional gatewatching better serves the needs of niche interest groups because “gatewatchers keep a constant watch at the gates, and point out those gates to their readers which are most likely to open onto useful sources.”

The ability to target specific interest groups and the dynamic nature of the information makes the concept of gatewatching an important strategy for hospital social media.

The benefits of gatewatching

Bruns explains the benefits of gatewatching: “Through the process of gatewatching a news story becomes a living organism that is born out of existing information sources through the interest of users … and further developed and enriched through rating, comments and discussions as long as there are users interested in it.”

By gatewatching, hospital staffs can foster education and discussion on topics of keen interest to niche hospital communities–maybe parents who have a child with a rare childhood disease or a local neighborhood’s concern over the plan to add new EMF-emitting power poles.

No matter what communities you choose to serve through the process of gatewatching, taking an active lead in the gatewatching process will position your hospital as a trusted source for health information and help it earn a reputation for being responsive to community concerns.

How we help

Hive Strategies helps health systems create HIPAA-compliant online communities for better health, lower costs and greater loyalty.

2 replies
  1. Jean Kelso Sandlin
    Jean Kelso Sandlin says:

    Helping patients sift through the many sites and directing them to credible sources also helps build trust and loyalty – very important for better physician-patient relationships. Thanks for your comment.

  2. Erick Kinuthia
    Erick Kinuthia says:

    Good document.AS indicated by pew research,80% of patients seek information online.Doctors can reach this patients through social media.This enables doctors to reach many of their potential customers.

    Erick Kinuthia
    Team MDwebpro


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