Health IT

Mayo Clinic looks to train other hospitals in social-media use

Mayo Clinic has created a social media center that will train other hospitals in the use of social media tools like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Mayo is billing the new venture as “a first-of-its-kind social media center focused on healthcare,” according to a statement from Rochester, Minnesota-based Mayo. Mayo has proven itself to be perhaps […]

Mayo Clinic has created a social media center that will train other hospitals in the use of social media tools like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Mayo is billing the new venture as “a first-of-its-kind social media center focused on healthcare,” according to a statement from Rochester, Minnesota-based Mayo.

Mayo has proven itself to be perhaps the most effective hospital in employing social media, in addition to other consumer-focused technology efforts. For example, the health system recently established a presence in the “Second Life” virtual world, and launched a venture to sell smartphone apps based on Mayo research.

The new center will provide training, workshops, consulting services and hold conferences on how hospitals can better employ social media to achieve business goals, connect with patients and spread their message.

The center will employ about eight people, have an initial annual budget of $800,000 and be led by Lee Aase, a Mayo public relations manager and social media “evangelist,” the Star-Tribune reported.

“Before, it was taking time out of my day job to do this, to be a good citizen and all,” Aase said. “In this case, we will be consulting with hospitals for pay.”

More and more hospitals are launching Twitter and Facebook accounts as they try to get their messages out to the public — or fear being left behind in the social media explosion of recent years. Still, only 762 of the more than 5,000 hospitals in the U.S. have some social networking presence, according to Ed Bennett’s Hospital Social Networking List. Bennett works for the University of Maryland Medical Center and is viewed as an expert on social media in healthcare.

In terms of Twitter followers, Mayo is by far the leader among hospitals with more than 60,000. That’s more than seven times as many followers as the next-most popular hospital, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Tennessee, according to Bennett’s data. Mayo also has the most popular health provider channel on YouTube, according to the statement.

Mayo has also sought to engage patients online by starting an online radio show that’s syndicated to a number of radio stations across the country and beefing up some medical applications on MayoClinic.com that help patients monitor and manage stress, blood pressure and cholesterol.

Aase also thinks that social-media use among a hospital’s employees could be beneficial. “We see immense opportunities to use internal social networking tools for collaboration among our employees to improve patient care, education, research and administration,” he said in the statement.

The idea for the social media center was hatched late last year around the time Dr. John Noseworthy stepped in as Mayo’s new CEO, Aase said in a phone interview from New York, where he was speaking at a conference. Noseworthy recognized the growing importance of social media and Mayo’s leadership role in the medium in the health space and suggested the health system become more “aggressive” about sharing that expertise, according to Aase.

“In a way, I’d been informally doing this for 18 months, getting questions from my peers and colleagues from other medical centers,” Aase said. “This is just a more formal way of having dedicated resources.”

The new venture has already signed up its first client, Mission Health System in Asheville, North Carolina. It’s a three-month consulting engagement in which Mayo will help Mission develop a social-media strategy and plans, Aase said.

However, Aase doesn’t see the new social media center as a big revenue driver for Mayo. “This isn’t a real money-making strategy for Mayo,” he said. “It’s more about building relationships with other providers and among medical researchers.”

But he still expects to have more than enough work to stay busy. “I’m confident that with the interest we’ve seen from other organizations, there’ll be more than sufficient funding to cover the costs of running the service,” Aase said.