Sunday, April 27, 2014

Is social media the next level of patient engagement?

It’s a demanding healthcare consumer and patient out there.  Active in social media, they are used to being engaged across a wide spectrum of industries on their terms. So why should that be so different in healthcare?

Smart phones, tablets and applications are ruling the day and virtually no age segment is immune from that transformation of how they are engaged by organizations. How a hospital and health system as well as physicians engage patents and the growing healthcare consumer in the form of the newly insured, dictates the effective and efficient use of social media as part and parcel of the engagement strategy.

For example, the family went to dinner at Chili’s. I decided to check in with 4 Square. I have done that before but this time was different. I received the usual offer for a free salsa and chips appetizer for checking in as a thank you. But that’s when it became different and the engagement went to a different level.  

Next thing I know, I receive a message via twitter, asking me what looks good to me tonight on the menu? So I replied with the order but that I was substituting some items for a healthier meal.  Which elicited a reply response that sounds good with a smiley face icon.  And that got me thinking about social media engagement and healthcare.

So what really happened here? Social media is about a meaningful dialogue and an exchange of information. Chili’s meet that requirement. Regardless that the response was automated they still managed to engage me in a different way from the last time and enhanced my experience.  From a big data perspective and market research avenue, they also learned what menu items are of interest and how diners substitute.

There is a couple to things about this for healthcare and healthcare consumer or patient engagement.

When an individual checks in on 4 Square at a site of care there should be an acknowledgement with a response of welcome. Additionally, use this opportunity for a system generated message that pops up on the 4 Square screens that is positive about the location of care. One can bet that there are already plenty of negative messages out there already.

Now is the place and time for engaging the individual via Twitter. Are you there for care or visiting someone? Depending on the answer if visiting, then a reminder to visit the gift shop for flowers or other items that night make someone feel better.  Or if seeking care, messages that we hope your experience meets your expectations and let us know if there is anything that can be done to make the care experience better. But do it all in 140 characters.

One has now engaged the healthcare consumer or patient; started a meaningful dialogue; and is gathering useful experience data for experience process improvement.

Later today I will be going to a major area hospital to visit a relative. A hospital where my wife and children have received care on occasion and  where I was admitted for 23 hour observation for evaluation for cardiac event, which turned out to be not the case.

Each and every time I have used 4 Square to check in. Today won’t be any different.  And the social media silence won’t be any different from the hospital either. They still do not know who I am or how to engage me, and that is the wrong message to send in a healthcare environment that is moving to a semi-retail model to be sending to one whom has choice.  

That just screams we don’t know who you are and don't care.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

What happens when social media goes awry?

In the discussion of the last few weeks, we have really focused on the sunny side of social media entry into the channel via Facebook to engage the healthcare consumer and patient's. But what happens when the special media channel turns bad on the hospital or health system?  It could be from a disgruntled patient, angry family, a vindictive employee, HIPAA violation, or poor judgment in content posted or reposted.  No organization is perfect so it must be anticipated that it will happen at some point. After all, the healthcare consumer, newly insured and patients are the new paparazzi. And staff makes mistakes. It happens.

Don't Panic

This is not to minimize in any fashion the seriousness of what is taking place. It’s to get one’s attention. 

Sometimes it becomes way too easy to panic. And that really needs to be avoided at all costs. So take these steps to mitigate the social media communications crisis to protect the brand and organizational reputation. Many of the steps are parallel and not sequential.

What to do when social media goes bad:
1.)    Do treat this as a communications failure and have a social media crisis communications plan already in place.
2.)    Understand what happened and why. Identify who the influencers will be to add voice and impact the conversation.
3.)    Actively monitor your online reputation.
4.)    Avoid the informational black hole.  Be ready with appropriate information and press statements.  You can’t hold a news conference every time you want to say something.
5.)    Have social medium appropriate messaging.
6.)    Integrate your response across all social media activities. Remember that some reporters use Twitter as a basis for information and facts without verifying the authenticity of the information.
7.)    If the organization blew it, take ownership.  No excuses, the appearances of excuses or pejorative behavior are allowed.  Social media users are a pretty savvy group and will see right through it. It will only make matters worse.
8.)    Integrate paid and earned media.
9.)    Have clear rules of social media engagement by employees.
10.)  Don’t forget to use your employees and their access to social media and how they can influence the conversation.  Employees are your secret weapon in this battle.

And lastly, here is hoping that a social media crisis never comes to your doorstep.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

How can the hospital make the Facebook experience memorable?

Facebook represents one of the more enduring social media channels that hospitals and health systems can use to engage the healthcare consumer and build their brand. As the evolution of healthcare continues unabated, brand engagement and the healthcare consumer experience is everything.

Ask the healthcare consumer to define the brand of the hospital and health system. Ask them to define the experience.  Can they define the healthcare brand in the terms such as trustworthy, innovative, compassionate, or high quality?  Can they describe the typical experience one will have when they engage the hospital or health system?  Can the employees of the organization describe the brand positively or negatively?

That is the starting point. Understanding and defining the brand attributes you want the healthcare consumer to perceive and believe. Then use Facebook to build those attributes in the minds of consumer.  Perception; leads to opinion; becomes fact.  That is what the hospital or health system should be doing on Facebook.

So here are some concrete steps to take for building brand on Facebook:

1.       Define the brand attributes and test those attributes? Don’t guess. The time for guessing or thinking you know the answer without consumer input is over in hospital and health system brand development.
2.       Understand the experience that the healthcare consumer desires.
3.       Understand the level and type of engagement that the healthcare consumer wants.
4.       Based on the data for the three steps above, create the content plan along the brand attributes, experience and engagement to be built and strengthened on Facebook. Yes, one can have three plans- brand building, experience and engagement, but all three must be highly integrated.
5.       Create content that is memorable, engaging, supports the experience and builds the brand.
6.       Create a detailed tactical execution plan and timeline. This is an ongoing marketing activity. It is not once day, week or month. It is all the time.
7.       Integrate the Facebook activities into the life and fabric of the organization and employees.  Employees can be the biggest supporters of the brand or the most negative detractors.
8.       Assign this activity to one person. If it is passed around as a group effort as just an activity in the marketing department, at some point it won’t get done.
9.       Measure, evaluate, adapt and change as you go along.
10.   Be proactive with Facebook. Flexibility is the key here. Leverage healthcare news and events that people are talking about and how the hospital and health system band fits.

Facebook and social media overall for that matter is hard. It takes focus, time, commitment, effort and resources. But done correctly, the payoff is great.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Social media, hospitals and Facebook; a place to engage consumers?

Facebook I think represents an interesting challenge for hospitals to use, but it can be the social media channel of choice in attracting and engaging the healthcare consumer. Now that being said, Facebook is not a one and done activity.  

I see too many hospital Facebook pages that have weeks between posts.  Well, that is not engaging and probably doing more harm than good. The healthcare consumer and patients for that matter will stop looking at the hospital or health system page if it’s not engaging.  Simple really, no engaging content means no page views and lots of negative perceptions which carryover to the brand.  They will go elsewhere.

One needs to be able to post regularly and post often on Facebook.  Think of Facebook as an ecosystem that lives, breaths and changes as its users.  That means as a healthcare organization, one must keep up with the change, looking for those opportunities that can be leveraged to engage and build the healthcare consumer friendly brand.

That’s right, hospitals and health system as a business imperative have to build a consumer friendly brand.  If the healthcare brand is not perceived as friendly, engaging, meaningful, innovative and proactive, that organization is at a significant disadvantage in a semi-retail healthcare consumer-driven market.  

Where does a healthcare organization need to start? Follow the money. And it’s not as crass as it sounds.

1.) In this new age of healthcare one has five markets: Medicare; Medicaid; Commercial; Exchanges; and Uninsured. That’s it folks.  Submarkets and demographics abound but it still only comes down to five markets.  That is what I mean by follow the money. Look at your service areas in those terms and do the market research to understand how consumers are using social media.

2.)  From the data and not I think, develop the strategic social media content plan that is fully integrated into the organizational marketing plan. Social media is a channel, but as an active channel it has to be managed in a strategic, coherent, engagement, experience and brand building fashion.  

3.) Don’t boil the ocean. An organization cannot be everything to everyone.  It’s impossible and arrogant. This plan is built around the needs of the healthcare consumer, not the organization.

4.) This is the full time responsibility of someone in marketing. It’s not when we have time in this day and age.  It’s easy to say there is no FTE because we are “lean”.  I have learned that the great majority of hospitals and health systems marketing departments are really marcom shops not true marketing shops.   
That means you are probably doing a lot of stuff that has no value. 

It also  means that in becoming “lean” there was no process improvement to change what you were doing and removing inherent marketing organizational inefficiencies.  All it really means is that one is doing the same or more with less.

By the way hospitals and health systems aren’t as lean as they think they are. If you want to know about lean, talk to someone who works for private equity.

5.) Start collecting from patients, visitors, anybody really that comes in contact with the healthcare organization their social media preferences if they will share it. Collect those email addresses because this in many ways is about email marketing.

It will take marketing to build awareness of the Facebook page and it seems silly to spend money on ads, billboards and TV when one can place  a link to your Facebook page in an email.

I am stopping here for this post.  There is already a lot to consider and act upon in the first four steps.  Weeks if not months of work actually.  No spoiler alert either.  Check back next week for the next installment of as the hospital world turns around social media.

Until then, have a great week.