Talent Circles

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

How to Overcome Obstacles in Healthcare Implementing a Social Media Program

By Jessica Miller-Merrell

As I mentioned in Part 1 of this healthcare social networking series, I see a great deal of opportunity in social networks being leveraged in the Healthcare industry.  Whether it’s building a relationship with future employees or current ones, social media technologies can be used to foster an employee and employer relationship that creates channels of communication instead of traditionally shutting them down. 

As an employee, one of my biggest frustrations with an organization was the feeling that no one was listening.  With social media the conversation and engagement is always flowing and organizations can use Big Data to help uncover employee or candidate trends and employee trends that help refine and support our current workplace communication efforts. 

Healthcare like Finance are two of the highest regulating and monitoring industries making organizations slow to adopt social media.  I see obstacles as an opportunity for competitive advantage because if everyone was doing something, it wouldn’t be as effective.  And we’ve already seen that social media is still relatively new to Healthcare from the 2011 Deloitte Report with 14% of U.S. hospitals using social media and social networking as an external facing marketing and communication tool. 

Chances are you have an interest in using social media at your organization.  Maybe it’s working with Talent Circles and building a talent network to create a candidate experience and community your organization owns and can source from.  Or maybe you are looking to make a case for launch an internal communication network using platforms like Yammer, IBM Connections, Jive, or Chatter.  Whatever your reason, developing the dialogue with senior management and overcoming corporate hurdles can be over half the battle. 

HIPPA Privacy Concerns

HIPP is a common obstacle for anyone wanting to communicate in the healthcare industry.  Communications between health care providers and their patients are subject to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which limits insurance plans, hospitals and physicians from answering questions on a specific patient’s health information across a social network.  Concerns like this don’t impact an external talent network as the large majority of community members are potential employees who do not have access to patient records.  Talent network members who are company representatives can be easily controlled and monitored. 

One of the benefits I see to establishing an internal social network is that information, messaging, and conversations unlike traditional social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are kept in house.  Organizations allow for a place of discussion like the break room water cooler making it less likely employees will share opinions, patient information, and other news outside of the internal social network. 

Establishing a Cost Baseline

One of my favorite ways to get executive buy in for a project like leveraging social media is to launch a pilot program where the risk is minimal, participants are hand selected, and we establish a 90 day window where the new program is tested before being implemented on a larger scale.  This helps us determine the real cost, change our approach based on the pilot, and determine the cost baseline for the project. 

Company executives are much more comfortable piloting a program first and dipping their toe in the water.  For many executives, social networking is still considered a fad.  By demonstrating the business case for social media beyond traditional marketing and communication, you can show them real value. 


According to a Greystone report, two-thirds of surveyed hospitals have not developed a plan on how to use their existing social networking sites and 70 percent of hospitals have less than four people devoted to social networking.  Maybe your organization has tried to launch a social media program in the past with mixed results.  Chances are your recruiting and human resources teams are already using social media in small amounts.  Whether it’s job distribution using social media or sourcing on LinkedIn, these are HR-focused social media activities, and my opinion is that your external recruiting network and your internal social network projects should be developed, executed, and maintained by HR.  Be prepared to discuss time commitments and who is responsible for the development and continued management of your social networking program. 

Overcoming obstacles when establishing your social networking program at a healthcare facility, hospital, or wherever is not easy.  With a little preparation, research, and planning you can implement a customized community that dramatically impacts your organization’s bottom line. 

Read Part 1 of our Healthcare Social Networking Series.

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR is a workplace and technology strategist specializing in social media.  She’s an author who writes at Blogging4Jobs. You can follow her on Twitter @blogging4jobs


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