MedCity Influencers

The surprising truth about social media in the top 15 health systems

A recent study revealed that more than 90% of those aged 18-24 said they would trust health information they found on social media. Knowing these 18-to-24-yr.-olds represent future patients in an increasingly consumer-driven healthcare world is only one reason why health systems should care about their social media statuses.

This post is sponsored by Fathom.

By Paul Richlovsky
A recent study revealed that more than 90% of those aged 18-24 said they would trust health information they found on social media. Knowing these 18-to-24-yr.-olds represent future patients in an increasingly consumer-driven healthcare world is only one reason why health systems should care about their social media statuses.

Fathom recently assessed the nation’s top health systems’ use of social media to provide a snapshot of how any health system can effectively use it to increase branding and loyalty.

About the research

The new Fathom research looked at all public online conversations about the top 15 health systems (as ranked by Thomson Reuters) from January 1 through December 31, 2012. The criteria for analysis included:

  • Total conversation volume;
  • location of the conversation;
  • channels patients (and potential patients) used to talk about the health system.

Only 2 out of the 15 health systems surveyed did not have official social media profiles for the system as a whole. (These 2 used social networks to represent individual hospitals.) Whether you are a healthcare practitioner, practice administrator or social media marketer, the findings may surprise.

Big systems, small presence

Only one of the top 15 systems is ranked in Fathom’s top 5 for social media presence: Memorial Hermann, best known for live-tweeting surgeries, including an open-heart one, a brain tumor resection, and most recently a C-section baby delivery. Among the 15, Memorial Hermann also had the largest collective social media following across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest, with nearly 3X the total followership of the 2nd-ranking system. The bigger story, though, is how so few large systems stack up well against various criteria for social media popularity. For example, only 3 large systems (categorized by total operating expenses) even crack the top 10 in terms of collective followers.

A trend to watch

One particular area to watch could be the visually oriented Pinterest social network: Despite its 1000% growth last year, only 4 of the 15 health systems surveyed have an official Pinterest page. While the jury might still be out on just how effective that medium might be for marketing a healthcare organization, the undeniable facts are that Pinterest’s popularity has grown wildly in the past year and its audience is predominantly female (a standard estimate is 80%). Consider that women tend to be the primary decision-makers about healthcare in a household and are more likely to seek out a doctor for health issues. If hospitals and health systems were able to effectively reach and educate all these Pinterest-using women about healthcare through their platform of choice, then imagining a future with more healthcare organizations getting good marketing returns (and branding benefits) on Pinterest is not farfetched.

Get the full report

Other findings from Fathom’s new research include:

  • Ways to align a health system’s marketing plan with multiple individual hospitals;
  • Suggestions on overcoming obstacles to full social media participation:
    • HIPAA regulations;
    • insufficient content;
    • lack of support from physicians.

Full details can be found in the new report, “Healthy Conversations: Benchmarking the Social Media of America’s Top 15 Health Systems.”

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