Study: Hospitals’ Facebook use is poor

By Molly Merrill
05:10 PM

NEW YORK – Hospitals aren’t taking advantage of the opportunities Facebook creates to better engage patients, build healthcare communities or develop their brands, according to a new study.
The study, touted as the first to look at how hospitals are using Facebook, was conducted by Verasoni Ah Ha! Insights, a new research arm of Verasoni Worldwide, and business consulting firm Simon Associates Management Consultants.

According to the study, only a few hospitals across the country are really using social media to their advantage and are doing it well.

"It appears that hospitals either have yet to grasp the role of Facebook with respect to connecting with patients, or have not yet invested in the medium to be able to use it as a viable marketing communications and healthcare or community development tool," said Andrea Simon, president of Simon Associates Management Consultants and co-author of the study.

The research looks at various types of relevant Facebook activities and tactics at 120 hospitals of various sizes and affiliations across the country. It includes an analysis of the size of network, frequency and types of posts and use of the integration tools available on Facebook, among other measures.

"While the numbers clearly indicate that patients are on Facebook, it is the job of hospitals to find them and engage them in a meaningful way. And, just because a hospital is on Facebook doesn't mean that they are building a meaningful Facebook experience for both the hospital and the patient," said Abe Kasbo, CEO of Verasoni Worldwide, co-author of the study.

On hospital pages where there is a high degree of interaction between the hospital and members, the study found that patients, family members, friends and community members used the hospital's Facebook presence to share experiences, laud, connect and recommend hospital services and, in some cases, praise certain physicians.

Children's hospitals are the clear leaders in the use of Facebook. The study indicates they have Facebook mass, meaning they seem to be very engaged in Facebook. Their networks – the number of people on their pages – are larger than most hospitals in the study and their activities appear to be more robust, engaging and relevant.

Ed Bennett, a Web strategist at the University of Maryland Medical System who maintains a site called Found in Cache – a social media resource for healthcare professionals – says “the data presented matches what I am seeing.”

Key findings from the study:
•    Only eight of 120 hospitals (6 percent) had more than 10,000 fans.
•    Less than 40 percent of hospitals posted daily
•    Those who posted daily had many more encounters with current and prospective patients as well as caregivers.
•    Less than 50 percent used Facebook's event calendar to promote health or hospital events.
•    80 percent of hospitals did not use Facebook's discussion board, while those hospitals that did were rewarded with a high degree of engagement, adulation and recommendations from members.
•    Seventy-six hospitals (63 percent) had no unsolicited feedback or questions on their pages.

Thirty-eight hospital Facebook pages (32 percent) included unsolicited feedback from their Facebook members