Ed Bennett is compiling a list of hospital-sponsored online patient support groups. Many of these are Facebook groups.
It’s a natural step for Ed, who spent 17 years at University of Maryland – part of it as director of web and digital services – before starting Ed Bennett Consulting.
I met Ed four years ago when I was invited to speak at a Mayo-Ragan Healthcare Social Media Summit in Rochester, Minn. Ed had the foresight to create the Hospital Social Network List, a reference tool that generated industry-wide awareness and adoption of social media when most hospitals were still too afraid of HIPAA violations to start a Facebook page. I’ve been grateful for his leadership ever since.
Recently Ed presented a webinar for the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network titled “Hospital Sponsored Online Patient Support Groups.” Colleen Young, community director for Mayo Clinic Connect, and Janet Gripshover, RN, who worked with Ed to start one of the first hospital-sponsored, facilitated online support groups back in 2011, also shared valuable lessons.
In the webinar, Ed answers some key questions, starting with, “Why a new list?”
“The purpose of this list is very simple,” says Ed. “It’s to show examples so that decision-makers at hospitals can see what’s being done at other facilities. That list is there to encourage adoption and give ammunition.”
Ed wants you to be able to say, “This is something we should be doing. We’re not the first to do it. And there are a lot of very good organizations who are successful at it.”
Why should Facebook communities matter for patients?
“When patients work with their hospital, what option do they have most of the time?” asks Ed. “They can join a traditional, face to face in-person group that meets maybe once a quarter that they have to drive to. But that’s not meeting their expectations. They want the ability to tap into support more often than once a quarter.”
That’s a nice example of the benefit of an online patient community to patients. But what about the benefit to the hospital? In the webinar Ed lists six:
- Patients access trusted information.
- Patients experience a sense of improved self-management.
- Patients can access real-time education.
- All of this leads to better patient outcomes.
- Better population awareness on the part of the healthcare provider.
- Increased brand loyalty.
If you visit Ed’s list you’ll see that some communities are built on Facebook groups and others on full-featured online community platforms. There are benefits and drawbacks to both. When all things are considered, the big question remains: How can these communities help my patients receive medical care and feel emtionally supported in real and lasting ways?