Hospital goes social, puts 'paper last'
In opening its new, flagship hospital in the state capital last month, MaineGeneral Medical Center took a bit of a gamble promoting the a $312 million Alfond Center for Health on Facebook.
"Healthcare tends to lag a little bit in terms of social media," Nicole McSweeney, director of marketing and communications for MaineGeneral, said. "It really lagged here in Maine."
MaineGeneral counted down the final 100 days before the Nov. 9 opening of the Alfond Center via Facebook and through a temporary website, ournewhospital.org. Posts included photo galleries, history of MaineGeneral and event listings.
Twitter, however, was not really a consideration given local trends, said McSweeney. "Twitter in Central Maine is not that widely used," she said.
The Facebook page for the new hospital has about 2,100 followers. While that's barely a blip compared to the 723,000 "likes" the Cleveland Clinic has, it still is more than twice as many than before the countdown started, according to McSweeney.
The campaign seems to have worked. An open house promoted on Facebook drew 12,000 visitors in one weekend in Augusta, a town with a population of fewer than 20,000.
When the hospital opened, MaineHealth had to transport 120 patients in a single day from the two old inpatient facilities in Augusta and Waterville, which were being consolidated into a single campus.
"A lot of people wanted to watch," McSweeney recalled. But management was concerned about violating the privacy rights of the patients being moved, so McSweeney relied on Facebook to try to keep the public away.
"We made a commitment to post hourly updates" of the move on Facebook, McSweeney said. She reported getting 11,000 page views that day, and the transfer was successful. "There were very few hiccups. Things went very smoothly," McSweeney said.
Since the opening, the Facebook page has had a profile of an executive each Sunday. McSweeney also posts updates on new services and observances of health-related events, such as World AIDS Day on Dec. 1.
The old hospital in Waterville is being remodeled into an outpatient center with a 24/7 emergency department, to be called Thayer Center for Health when it opens next fall. Expect to see updates on Facebook.
The Alfond Center for Health is modern in terms of information technology, though the IT shop is more functional than groundbreaking.
Allscripts inpatient and ambulatory EHRs were in place at the old facilities, and those transferred over, said CIO Danny Burgess. "We coupled our existing technologies with some new technologies," Burgess said.
The hospital is not fully paperless, though most data capture and retrieval is electronic, according to Burgess. "It's a paper-last environment," he said.