The Healthcare Industry is Stuck – 5 Strategies to Overcome and Resources to Assist

Post by Frank Barry - 6.29.2009 - Follow me on Twitter

I was recently invited to speak at AHP in Canada. The event was held in beautiful Montreal at the Le Centre Sheraton. While I was there I learned a great deal about the challenges hospitals and foundations face. (My presentations: "Social Networking For Hospitals" or "Volunteer Recruitment Online")

The challenges I list below are not completely unique to the healthcare industry, but from talking with conference organizers and hearing questions from attendees it’s obvious the healthcare industry at large has a ways to go before they are fully able to embrace social media.

Are you stuck?Let’s get started …

It’s hard to get approval or buy-in from executive staff

This was a common topic of discussion. Leadership thinks that social media/networking sites are useless, that they provide their hospital with no real value and that people will spend all their time “playing around”. Are these real concerns? Sure. What does it take to overcome these? Show them the value, impact and potential through what others are doing. Look at Hospitals, Foundations, nonprofits, for-profits, small organizations and large organizations. Show the success of others and come to them with ideas and plans on how you can be successful as well. 

Is it that simple?

It’s hard to get access due to IT restrictions

I heard this from pretty much everyone that spoke up. IT limits access because they want to keep a tight rein on things and make sure the hospitals network is safe. One suggestion I heard that made a lot of sense was “If people abuse their access fire them”. That may sound extreme, but when you think about it for a while it makes perfect sense. Isn’t it similar to people not doing their job or performing at a less than satisfactory level? Put a policy in place that makes this clear so everyone understands and move on. If accessing these sites is not part of a persons job responsibilities limit their access. Fair?

What am I missing?

There’s a disconnect between hospitals and foundations

This one is tough. No doubt. It seemed that it was a normal occurrence for Hospitals and Foundations to have conflicting priorities and no clear way to unite around online strategies. If you’re a hospital or foundation that has worked through the first two items on this list and your counterpart has not my suggestion is to lead the way. Start deploying your social networking/media and/or online event strategy. If you do it right, demonstrate success and educate your counterpart along the way. My guess is they will soon follow.

What advice do you have to help bridge the gap?

People are not knowledgeable of new/emerging online tools so they are unsure of how to use them to support their current mission, vision and values

A new skill set is emerging with the rise of social media/networking. Look to hire someone or develop someone on staff. There are a lot or resources out there to help you get started. I’d also suggest you go outside of your domain. Watch how nonprofits and for-profits are achieving success. Here are a few examples of organizations blazing the social media trail to get you started: Dell, Comcast, The American Red Cross, The Lance Armstrong Foundation, Athletes for a Cure, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, The National Wildlife FoundationThe Humane Society and The United Methodist Church.

How have you developed your staff?

Where to go from here?

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. As a matter of fact, many hospitals are already successfully using social media. I’m sure if you asked them they would tell you it took a lot to get where they are, but I’m also sure they’d tell you it was worth all the effort.


A few examples to get you started:

Children’s Hospital of LA
 Web siteYouTubeFacebook | Twitter

Arkansas Children's Hospital, Little Rock, AK
 Web siteYouTubeFacebookTwitter

Barnes-Jewish Hospital/Washington University, St. Louis, MO
 Web siteYouTubeFacebook | Twitter

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA
 Web site | YouTubeFacebookTwitter | Blog

Carilion Clinic, Roanoke, VA
 Web site | YouTubeFacebookTwitter | Blog

M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX
 Web site | YouTubeFacebookTwitterBlog


* For further research here is a comprehensive US list of Hospitals using social media by Ed Bennett


People that can help you:

Resources that will keep you going:

Photo Credit: gonzalo_ar


I posed a few questions along the way in this post. Am I crazy? Can this be done?

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