What providers in other countries can teach the U.S. about social media

Early adopters of social media in foreign countries have shown that it can improve communications, information sharing, clinical outcomes and speed of innovation, according to researchers at CSC.

Caitlin Lorincz, a researcher analyst at CSC, said the recent study of foreign healthcare organizations’ social media use found that many providers have expanded past the typical use for establishing a brand. They are using it for educating patients and sharing information between healthcare professionals.

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“There’s a lot we can learn from our global peers,” says Lorincz. For instance, in some other countries, there less competition to acquire patients; social media in those countries is more focused on care management and patient education.

One example is Rabound Academic Medical Center in the Netherlands. It launched its own online community to specifically serve their young adult cancer patients in 2009. The center's research indicates that the community has had a positive impact on the population. The hospital has seen fewer unscheduled hospital visits and higher levels of patient satisfaction. “The site connects and encourages patients to interact, share feelings, information and knowledge,” Lorincz says. “Their findings have shown that patients are more educated and more confident.”

According to Lorincz, in the United Kingdom, there is a site called “How Are You” that's similar to Facebook. It is a patient portal with social networking features. Patients provide updates about how they’re feeling. The patient’s caregivers and doctors can take action and check in on that patient.

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In New Zealand, a nurse who operates a sexual health clinic for young adults uses social media to share health education and wellness tips on Facebook. She also uses her Facebook page to provide educational information, and to keep in touch with patients, who often move around frequently, Lorincz says.

“What we really thought was interesting from our study is that social media is a great way to engage patients,” says Lorincz. The U.S. is facing big challenges on how to motivate and educate patients to take care of their health. Social media could be one of the ways, she adds.

Read or download the full CSC report here: “Should Healthcare Organizations Use Social Media.”

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