Meet the Experts – Ryan Squire

Our next expert profile is with Ryan Squire. I had the pleasure of meeting Ryan in person a few weeks ago at the conferences in Austin, but I’ve known him by reputation for over a year. Ryan has a personal, conversational style that is very effective in the Social Media community he runs for The Ohio State University Medical Center.

Please introduce yourself

I am Ryan Squire, Program Director for Digital and Social Media at The Ohio State University Medical Center.  I am a husband, dad, and believer that we can improve people’s lives by personalizing medicine, and maybe more importantly personalizing their health care experience.

Tell us about Ohio State and the department where you work.

Ohio State Medical Center includes a top-30 College of Medicine, six hospitals, and a unified physician practice network of primary and specialty care practices.  We have more than a dozen research centers and institutes.  We have more than 6.8 million square feet of space in more than 70 buildings, all run by over 14,000 faculty, staff, and students.  I knew Ohio State was the largest University in the country, but I had no idea of the size of the Medical Center until I started here in April 2009.  Our Communications and Marketing Department is a shared service at the Medical Center, which means that we support everyone: the College of Medicine, University Hospitals, The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute and OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Ross Heart Hospital and our primary care network.  In addition, our media relations team works with reporters, bloggers, and our experts to get the word out about the plethora of research and innovation happening across the Medical Center.

What got you interested in social media?

I became interested in social media while the managing editor at WCMH-TV in Columbus, Ohio.  We needed to make our product more relevant to our viewers (and the companies looking for an advertising solution).  We worked very hard to change our product from TV-news-first to content-first.  TV is just one way people wanted to get information; we realized that we could also get them news and information even quicker using social media.

The news we were delivering was more balanced and accurate because our customers were able to be a part of the process.  We used to ask them “what question would you ask if you had a chance,” but suddenly, they had that chance, every day.  We were one of the first local TV stations in the country to embrace this technology because it was the right thing to do for our customers.

We also realized the power social media had to influence customer decisions.  During the elections of 2008, there was great question about media bias.  We used social media to confront those questions head on—a tactic that worked very well for us.  Customers wanted all sides of the story, and after the first time we demonstrated our commitment to that, they held us accountable.  It was a revolutionary experience, both for local media and for me personally.
During the same time, my daughter had been dealing with some health issues.  I was appalled by the lack of responsiveness of the health care providers we met… at all levels of the system.  When I found out that The Ohio State University Medical Center was not only looking to start a social media program, but to also embrace the culture of patient and employee empowerment that comes with it, I saw a huge opportunity to work for a world-class institution and do some good.

What aspects of Social Media do you focus on at OSU Medical Center?

We are currently focusing on our policy and education.  With more than 14,000 potential marketers, it is very important to me that we get social media right and help our employees understand their roles and responsibilities.

We continue to use social media to provide information to our local community about medicine and their health.  We tell our own stories to help journalists understand the scope of the work going on at OSU Medical Center, and we look for ways to provide exceptional customer service.

Is there a particular Social Network that you prefer for your hospital program?

Different audiences get their messages differently.  Even inside the Medical Center, we have people who need email and others who would not open their email program even if they knew they would win money.  Our external audience is just as diverse, so I believe it is important that we use as many of the big tools as possible while looking for new ways that people want to receive and will act on the messages we provide.

We currently use WordPress blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube in many different ways.  We are also deploying SharePoint internally to help our employees collaborate, find, and share information quickly.

What are the goals of your social media program?

Our short-term goal is teaching the power these tools have and the intent we have to use them; not a small task when you are dealing with a population that is incredibly diverse.  To get there, we have engaged leaders from across the Medical Center, our legal team, compliance staff, IT security, HR, top leadership, nursing, researchers, and physicians.  We work through concerns and questions by educating.

The initial goal for using social media was to augment our existing communications and marketing programs.  That goal remains.  At the Medical Center our mission and promise is to “improve people’s lives by personalizing health care.”  Personalized Health Care is a highly scientific goal, one that would have health care teams understand an entire person, their habits, their environment, and their history, so that we can personalize their medicine to keep them healthy or get them better when they are sick.  The big problem I experienced is that we do not have a way to gather that extremely detailed information, or deliver care based on it because there has been a breakdown in any kind of relationship between patients and their health care providers.  I think social media can help us to rebuild those relationships and that is my grand goal.

What’s your opinion on trying to measure ROI for your social media efforts?

I think that return on investment is extremely important, even more so when you consider that we are a public institution and tax dollars are on the line.

Any investment that we can make to revolutionize the patient’s relationship with health care is positive as long as we are, building relationships, trust, and ability to communicate with their providers.  Return on that investment will mean more trust in the system and more people participating in health care to stay healthy (not just get better).  The measurements for that are a healthier population, cheaper medicine, faster cures, and happier customers, or in other words, goals we had already established before social media tools came along.  Easy, right?

How much staff time do you and your team devote to social media a week? How much do you think is right?

My job is spent 100% on building programs that will allow us to connect with our internal teams and our external patients and customers.  I would say that maybe 5% of the Communications and Marketing team’s time is spent doing the same, and my goal is to get that to a healthy 45-50%.  We still have to do some of the things that we have done historically, but I think there is definitely some things that we can let go of because they aren’t improving people’s lives by personalizing health care.  We don’t ever ask, “how much time did you spend building the relationships you need to sustain your business today?”  Why not?

Did you need to “sell” social media to upper management?

Because we deal with so many employees and management in so many different parts of the organization, there has been some need to educate people about the benefits of social media.  Facebook, with all of its ability to connect people, can also consume people’s time… a lot of time.  That translates to lack of productivity in the mind of a manager.  For someone who does not use social networks, they are just another time wasting website.  However, to your employees who use facebook or twitter to communicate with their family and build trust networks (even if they do not realize they are doing that), facebook is as essential as a phone to call home.  We cannot expect engaged productive employees unless we empower them with the tools to be engaged in all facets of their life and our business.  Our upper management gets that and as all management at OSU Medical Center understands what these tools can accomplish access to them does not need to be sold.

Can you share a success story? Something that has proved the value of social media for your organization.

We have turned around numerous customer service issues… some while the situation was going downhill.  We have provided value to reporters on deadline when their story sources turned them down and they turned to social media for some help.  Most recently, we held our annual Personalized Health Care National Conference and live blogged the entire conference.  We posted video, pictures, text and the slides of every presenter who would give us permission so that the conference was more than just a two-day lecture, but a base of information to work from publically, so we could see our ideas come to life between this year and 2010.  You can find that blog here.

What advice do you have for Hospitals considering a social media program?

Understand your culture first.  Get to know what type of culture must exist for social media to thrive responsibly.  Be honest with yourself about the work that it will take to build that culture and the results will be well worth your while.  Do not limit your potential by looking at social media as a communications and marketing tool, look at social media as the way your customers should expect to do business with you… personalized, responsive, engaged.

Any final thoughts?

One thing people often bring up about social media is that while using social media, we give up the ability to control conversation.  A fallacy of business is that you ever could control conversation about you or your brand.  People have always talked about you, good, bad, and indifferent.  Social media lets them do that in a more public forum, but it allows you to be in that forum every single time; what you do with that opportunity is up to you and your customers if you choose to let them be a part of the process.

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5 Responses to Meet the Experts – Ryan Squire

  1. Lisa Cruz says:

    Great interview! I was lucky enough to meet you, Ed, and sat right next to Ryan at the session. It is extremely exciting to see how health care is growing into social media. There is certainly never a shortage of content and so many relationships to gain. Social media provides the opportunity to connect with patients and the community in a two way conversation like never before. The health care system we work with, Affinity Health System, has moved forward with social media through education as well as an internal Social Media Council that involves all core competencies of the organization — from HR, legal, physicians, risk management and more. Moving forward in social media as an organization, together, has been fantastic. Thank you for sharing all of your insights and I look forward to more.

  2. Nick Dawson says:

    Great comments from Ryan – love this one in particular: A fallacy of business is that you ever could control conversation about you or your brand
    Ryan also has a great grasp on the end goal – helping patients. I love the idea of measuring ROI of social media in healthcare the same way we measure our overall effectiveness as provider organizations.

  3. Jane Sherwin says:

    Maybe the best interview yet. I agree with Nick’s comment about the foolishness of thinking traditional media offered control over negative comments.

    Also love this statement: “Do not limit your potential by looking at social media as a communications and marketing tool, look at social media as the way your customers should expect to do business with you… personalized, responsive, engaged.”

  4. Ryan Squire says:

    Jane, Nick, and Lisa,
    Thanks for the comments. I wonder what you’ve seen/experienced with patients/staff trying to use social media to participate in their health and prevent their disease?

  5. Clay Marsh says:

    Great interview! As an OSU faculty who is interested in understanding customer’s needs and communicating with these customer (patients with disease and those that are healthy), we are fortunate to have forward thinking leadership and Ryan’s leadership. Our goal is to create the future of medicine to improve people’s lives through personalized health care. Part of our strategy is to build a health system without walls to improve access to care, along with creating tools to predict and prevent disease, instead of treating only after disease is defined. Social media will be a key component of the tipping point to transform health care and to create these novel programs. Kudos to Ryan and his team!!

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