From The Editor | October 1, 2010

Social Media In Healthcare

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By Ken Congdon, editor in chief, Health IT Outcomes

Last week, the Mayo Clinic's recently formed Center for Social Media announced the formation of the Social Media Health Network. The purpose of this network is teach its members best practices on how to implement effective social media programs through educational conferences, webinars, and the sharing of training materials and resources. In addition to Mayo Clinic, charter members of the network include Bon Secours Health System, Inova Health System, Mission Health System, and Swedish Health Services.

While many healthcare facilities have historically shied away from social media initiatives due to the perceived HIPAA-violation risks, the development of this new network is evidence of the growing acceptance of social media in the healthcare community. In fact, there are a few key ways that I see social media being leveraged with varying degrees of success by healthcare institutions.

  • Marketing & Wellness Promotion
    Several healthcare institutions have begun using Twitter, Facebook, and other key Web 2.0 platforms as a means to promote their latest events and news releases, as well as a forum to post the latest health alerts and wellness advice. For example, St. Luke's Episcopal Health System (e.g. @StLukes_SLWH, @StLukes_SLHV) has recently leveraged Twitter to promote a Men's Health Fair to its followers (which include several patients). It also used the social media outlet to post details about the Similac recall as well as tips for cold and flu prevention. Efforts such as these can help drive public awareness of hospital efforts and foster patient loyalty.

  • e-Patient Outreach
    For years now, several hospitals and individual physicians have brought their expertise to online medical forums such as In these public forums, experts answer medical questions submitted by anonymous patients in general terms. These efforts help promote wellness by providing medical information relevant to a common ailment without providing specific treatment for a patient's medical condition. These forums can be general or condition-specific (such as online communities for managing chronic conditions such as diabetes or Chron's disease). Expect these online communities to increase in popularity as we enter the era of the PHR, potentially linking doctors, patients, and medical data via smartphones and other mobile devices.
  • Sharing HIT Best Practices
    In the rush to meet ARRA/HITECH, HIPAA 5010, and ICD-10 mandates, use of social networks by the health IT community has exploded. Healthcare IT professionals, vendors, and analysts are communicating on LinkedIn groups created by associations like HIMSS ( and media outlets like Health IT Outcomes ( to share health IT deployment challenges, product selection advice, and implementation best practices. These outlets will be pivotal in facilitating the progression of many healthcare facility's toward meaningful use.

Ken Congdon is Editor In Chief of Health IT Outcomes. He can be reached at