Costs vs Benefits of Healthcare Social Media Participation

The healthcare social media twitter chat (otherwise known as #hcsm, happens every Sunday at 8pm CST) was a buzz last night with many great topics related to healthcare’s adoption of this new media and how to continue to engage with patients online. It’s a hot topic in healthcare right now; organizations such as hospitals, health systems and private practices alike are all grappling with understanding how they can best use the tools and apply them to their overall growth strategies.

The key discussion point I honed in on last night was that about the costs vs. the benefits of participating in social media efforts. How do we measure what our “costs” are as an organization and what returns from those costs do we consider “benefits”. I had a follow-up phone call this morning with one of the participants and I think this call clearly summed it up. We see many organizations trying to be everything to everyone, if you will. They post content that is flat, generic or simply promotional in nature and expect to see an ROI within a few short months. When they don’t, the “cost” i.e. their time and any outside production/consultation dollars are a waste. They don’t see any “benefits” i.e. new patients/new cases walking through the doors as a direct result of a post on Facebook.

To truly understand the costs vs. benefits for your organization, you have to dig a littler deeper and try to not be “everything” online. Look at your strategic plan and look at the goals your organization has set for standards such as patient quality, patient satisfaction and patient compliance; use those key areas as determining factors for the benefits you hope to reap out of participating in social media. Perhaps your organization wants to increase patient compliance; you film your physicians and surgeons discussing how to prepare for upcoming procedures, why medications are important and how following post-op instructions can improve healing and quality of life after the surgery. If patients are watching those videos and compliance ratings increase over time, your organization is seeing the benefits from social media participation.

Moral of the story: don’t look to calculate the ROI of your social media strategy simply on dollars or new surgery cases. Be more specific with your goals and look for the value of patient engagement beyond the numbers.

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