Should Hospitals Have Facebook Pages?

(Photo illustration by Gerald Rich, KUHF)
The Texas Medical Center has been generating a lot of buzz on Facebook lately. And a new study, published in the American Journal of Hospital Quality, suggests they're right on track.

A hospital isn't a place any of us want to be. So who would "like" one on Facebook? 70,000 Houstonians, that’s who. St.Lukes, Texas Woman’s, MD Anderson — they’re all active on the site.

For the people behind these pages, it's a full time job. Like Jason Lauritzen, he’s one of three social media specialists with Methodist Hospitals.

"The day is never the same. We do have a calendar of maybe content we want to share with people. We curate some information about health news and someone says, 'Hey can you provide more information on that,' or ,'Can you put me in touch with a doctor?' We go out, and we do those things for them."

Lauritzen says social media is part of a hospital's brand. He wasn't surprised when he heard a new study linked Facebook likes to quality.

The study found that out of 40 New York Hospitals, the ones with more Facebook likes also outscored their peers in traditional measures of care, like 30 day mortality rates and patient recommendations.

Paloma Luisi is one of the Healthcare Institute and Technology Lab researchers who conducted the study.

"The Facebook like is one small metric we can look at and see does this have any valid findings in measuring patient satisfaction and hospital quality. And we think that it might, but it deserves future research"

But hospitals scrambling to put up a Facebook page, take heed:

"The worst thing a CEO could do is to tell a marketing director after this reading this study, go throw up a Facebook page"

That's Dan Hinmon. He works with hospitals on their social media presence. He says one-in-six hospitals put up a Facebook page and then totally forgets about it. He calls it a Facebook failure.

"Facebook can be powerful in terms of building good relationships with patients. But if you don't do it right, the very opposite can happen. Patients can decide that you don't really care and aren't interested in them. And that can reflect on the entire quality of your hospital"

Hinmon says people who like a hospital on Facebook personally connect with one of its services. Cancer and maternity centers tend to get more traffic.

It's still not clear what Facebook means for quality of care across the country, but hospitals are connecting with patients in a new way, long after they're discharged.