Tips for harnessing social media to improve population health

Social media expert Melody Smith Jones explains what organizations need to do to benefit providers and convert unknown patients into new consumers of healthcare services.
By Jessica Davis
01:47 PM
social media population health

Social media can empower providers to connect with patients where they live through relationship building, sharing vital information and providing health support.

Despite so many promising benefits, however, some providers are resistant to incorporate social media into their healthcare program, said Melody Smith Jones, manager of Connected Health at Perficient.

The biggest challenge to successful healthcare social media, in fact, is often overcoming the instinct to abstain from it altogether or limit participation simply to mitigate risk, she continued.

“A healthcare organization’s reticence to participate in social media is often well-intentioned. After all, social media communication brings with it inherent risk,” Jones said. “However, an organization does not actually decrease risk through non-participation. Conversations about you are still taking place and patients are still attempting to connect with you. You’re just ignoring them.”

Once providers get over the initial fear of social media, they must work on creating a voice, she explained. A healthcare organization must be warm, appear trustworthy and engage with its audience. It shouldn’t appear related to corporate communications - “devoid of much in the way of warmth or strategy.”

Instead organizations should maintain the “right balance of engaging and compliant,” Jones added. “The possibilities are endless. You’re building stronger relationships with your patients, attracting new patients and helping the population you serve make better healthcare decisions.”

Smith added that healthcare providers should concentrate on building a dual set of core competencies: the knowledge, strategy and voice for a patient-centric social media program as well as the creation of a safe landscape for interacting with patients.

These competencies, fueled by social media listening and data, can be harnessed when built on proactive media governance, the right mix of priority, people, policy and process.

“Social media has the ability to impact population health by being seamlessly incorporated into the daily life of the healthcare consumer,” Jones said, adding that advanced providers are already using the tools to not only manage population wellness but also convert unknown consumers into patients. “When consumers are looking for healthcare answers and information, often the first place they turn is social media. Don’t you want to be there?”

Jones presented along with Jones and Cedars-Sinai’s director of digital strategy Nelly Jacobo during a session at HIMSS17. 

This article is part of our ongoing coverage of HIMSS17. Visit Destination HIMSS17 for previews, reporting live from the show floor and after the conference.

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(Photo courtesy ChristianaCare)

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