Does your hospital allow or block access to social media?

UPDATE – The survey is now closed.

Note – this post was originally published on Ragan’s Healthcare Communication News Reposted with permission 

This new survey by Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media wants to find out so it can prepare a white paper and toolkit based on the findings.

By Jessica Levco | Posted: November 7, 2012

Hospitals have a disjointed attitude when it comes to accessing social media.

Ed Bennett, an advisory board member for Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, bemoans the “blocking versus unblocking debate” at many hospitals that can pit the marketing department against the hospital board, or its IT and legal departments.

“There are a lot of hospitals that invest money and resources into their social media sites to reach their communities, but then they block them for their staff,” Bennett says. “It tells the staff, ‘We don’t trust you.’ It sends the wrong message.”

Moreover, he says, it seems to discredit social media as a communication platform.

“It’s just like saying, ‘Yeah, the telephone is great, but we’re not going to give you one at your desk because you’ll talk to your friends all day.’ We’re just going through another cycle.”

Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media is trying to address the issue by conducting a survey. Bennett, who is the chairman of the employee access task force, is leading the efforts.

In the online survey, each hospital communicator is asked whether his or her hospital opens or closes social media access for employees. The survey takes about five minutes to complete and is open to any hospital communicator.

So far, 130 people have responded. Ideally, Bennett is hoping for a sample size of 400. At this point, there isn’t a deadline for closing the survey.

Once results are final, the team will create a white paper and a toolkit to help hospital communicators make the case for unblocking social media.

Bennett wants to see which social media sites are getting blocked the most. He’d also like to know whether the blocking of social media is an IT, HR, or compliance issue. This information will give him a better sense of the obstacles that communicators are facing.

The white paper is expected to be about 2,000 words, featuring the voices of five to 10 people who are also working on the project. The toolkit is intended help hospital communicators to respond to certain departments that are blocking social media. Both the white paper and toolkit are free.

Lee Aase, director of Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, says this survey is an example of the kind of contributions it wants to make within the health network. By banding together, MCCSM wants to tackle these types of issues hospital communicators deal with.

“By gathering the most data, it will help us understand the reasons why employees are blocked from accessing social media,” Aase says.

To take the survey, click here.


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3 Responses to Does your hospital allow or block access to social media?

  1. Guest says:

    Conducting a survey gives insight into the blockage of
    social media in hospitals, but I’m curious as to how it will support the
    possible success of using social media. Americans are super connected to technology
    today and I understand how patients use social media when searching for a
    doctor, reviews, and hospitals. I think it is a great marketing strategy to appeal
    to patients. Instead of advertisements on television, the sites can reach more
    patients who are very connected to the Internet. However, I’m skeptical of the
    idea of doctors having direct access to social media during their workday.  Hospitals cannot block doctors from
    social media access when they are at home. So, if doctors really want to be
    connected it seems they could do it off duty. I once interned with a doctor who
    did not have access blocked to any social networking site. I watched as she was
    connected to Facebook all day long. Between patients she would get on her
    computer and check Facebook, update her status, and communicate with patients,
    and friends, via chat. Giving doctors access to social media websites to live
    stream surgeries may be beneficial to a hospital’s advertising—showing that
    they are technologically advanced and successful in surgeries. But I can see
    how not all social media access should be open to doctors. It can turn in to
    the phone example you pose. Instead of focusing on the patient in front of
    them, time is taken up by the distraction of the Internet. I’m interested to
    see what the survey says, and the final, detailed argument for constructive use
    of social media. 

  2. Kavin K says:

    Much of the advantage of allowing the use social media in the realm of health care is increased patient-doctor collaboration. A large disconnect exists as the doctor- the ultimate source of medical knowledge and personalized care is increasingly being displaced by an e-patient initiative. Many times what a patient seeks to gain therapeutically from a visit with his/her doctor is often at odds with what the patient relates with through social media, medical encyclopedias, patient forums, etc. I feel much of the problem can be attributed to doctors simply not seeing the worth in the knowledge and experiences offered by social media endeavors- after all isn’t 8+ years of medical training enough to qualify being a sufficiently good physician? But the problem exists when doctors fail to relate with the knowledge that a patient has vested interest with. A therapeutic approach should preach a partnership between patient and doctor rather than a pure consultation method. For instance, if a patient reads a novel study or experimental approach addressing chemotherapy on the hospital’s facebook page it would seem common sense that said patient’s doctor should have familiarity with the procedure or at least be allowed to learn more about it. Furthermore through social media, doctor’s have the opportunity to learn and appeal to patients on a much larger scale than the examining room. A surgeon can post his recent successes in an operative technique he is advancing for example, or an oncologist can provide a blurb about the hospital’s approaches to personalized care during radiation therapy. Of course the mode by which this social media communication has to be controlled to avoid excessive infiltration, but this can be accomplished by controlling posts to a hospital page only. The point is, with patients becoming more and more receptive to social media a physician should also be given such opportunities to better the quality of care and advice he can provide during consultations. Social media approaches should preach collaboration rather than selective exclusion on the part of hospitals.

  3. Katharine Y says:

    Thanks for the post and great previous comments!

    It would be very interesting to see the motive behind why certain forms of social media are blocked from those at the medical institutions. Surely, physicians would be able to control when they use social media like Facebook or Twitter, and not have it be a distracting factor to patient care. Nonetheless, I can see that spending time with friends on Facebook or Twitter could take away from getting to know patients better by reading their charts or histories.

    However, I definitely feel that social media that originates from the medical institution itself (such as forums, blogs, etc) can be used more effectively with health professionals. One of the best ways to fortify the institution’s social media site’s reliability is to bolster it with input from its health professionals. Perhaps, the institution can even provide information, platform, or framework for physicians to better add to the website as an instructional and informational tool for patients. Being able to access those sites at the institution may be useful if the physician thinks of something they want to share.

    For other more personal social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or Google+, it does not seem as crucial to have access in the daytime. Most health professionals don’t even have to time for personal duties during their job anyways. The ultimate venue for effective healthcare is effective physician-patient communication, and it is only most necessary to unblock the kinds of social media that can foster such communication.

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