How to Develop a Thriving Facebook Patient Community

Yesterday I presented How to Develop a Thriving Facebook Community to an enthusiastic group at the Healthcare Communicators of Oregon fall conference. 

KJ McAllister, HCO president, and her board organized a strong lineup, including a panel of Portland-area media all stars from Portland Busines Journal, the Columbian, and NPR; Mayo Clinic Director of Social and Digitial Innovation Lee Aase; Cambia Health Solutions’ Rachel Peters; and Dr. Vinay Prasad, a researcher from OHSU. 

This presentation covers the different kinds of Facebook groups, explains the benefits of online patient communities, and takes you through 7 steps to make sure your community is successful. 



Why hospitals use Facebook groups to help patients help each other

According to popular lore, when the famous criminal Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, he answered: “Because that’s where the money is.” 

When hospitals are asked why they start a Facebook patient community, a common answer is: “Because that’s where the people are.”

One of the toughest challenges for new patient communities is getting the right people to join the community. When you organize a patient community as a Facebook group, almost two billion people are just a click away.

Facebook has more than six million health-related groups, with more than 70 million members, according to a recent article in MM&M.

Other reasons to start a Facebook patient community include:

  • It’s free – at least the cost to setup is. Managing the community is essential, and the cost of managing and monitoring the community must be accounted for. At least there are no software installation or support costs. 
  • It’s easy and familiar to react, post, comment, and share. 
  • Facebook groups are a great way to test your community concept. As the community grows you can move to a more robust community platform. 

Here are a few examples of Facebook patient communities that hospitals have launched. 

Cerebral Palsy Resource Group – Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare

Atlantic General Bariatric Group

UMMS Liver Transplant Support Group

University of Maryland Heart and Lung Transplant Community

Spina Bifida Resource Group – Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare

Vanderbilt Center for Surgical Weight Loss