Social media graphic 1500 x 778 px (Adobe stock photo)

Attending HIMSS12 as media had many advantages, the most compelling of which was the tremendous outreach from HIMSS vendors to set up appointments to learn about their products. I probably got 20-30 emails/day from different companies letting me know that their CEO, CMO or VP of this or that wanted to make an appointment with me to talk about their latest and greatest product (pretty flattering to have all this attention-guess it is one reason journalists seem to be having such a good time).

One of the products that caught my attention in the midst of all this flurry was Avaya’s Social Media Manager and Customer Connections Portfolio. Use of Social Media in healthcare got a fair bit of attention at HIMSS – even having its own Social Media Center with presentations and panel discussions.

So, you may be asking, I don’t get it…what’s this got to do with healthcare?  Well, just about everything in this age where we all communicate (all the time) via Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ and also vent our frustrations and post our complaints about stuff we don’t like (even our doctors) via Yelp, DoctorBase, ZocDoc and Angie’s list.  If you aren’t paying attention to Social Media marketing yet, you really should be.


Avaya Healthcare Solutions

So, I was glad that had a chance to spend some time with Sanjeev Gupta, General Manager, Avaya Healthcare Solutions.  He explained why physician practices, hospitals, and health systems should be using Social Media marketing.  “They need to protect…and proactively project their brand.”  “And”, he said, “they can also use it to promote population health management.”

For example, let’s say one of your customers [aka patients] has a poor experience. It could be anything, a bad interaction with a clerk to trouble finding a parking spot. So, they start complaining about it on Social Media. Pretty soon, others start piling on and what used to be a one-off complaint starts taking on a whole new dimension that could be damaging to your practice.

What to do?  Avaya’s SMM software automatically tracks your “mentions” using the parameters you choose (e.g., Dr. Salber & bad, or Dr. Salber & good and so on.) The software also creates a queue of work for whoever you designate to respond to the issues (e.g., your office manager, your daughter-in-law who just got a degree in social media, or a contracted agency, such as Avaya’s Customer Connections). This allows proactive outreach to try to remedy the concern instead of just letting it fester. This type of recovery from a negative customer interaction is viewed by marketing experts as a great way to create customer loyalty (UAL are you listening?).

Social media can also be used to project your brand. Automatic tracking of keywords related to your area of expertise allows you to jump into the conversation and establish yourself as an expert (but remember, content is key, if you put yourself out as an expert, you need to show that you really are one).

Finally, by automatically monitoring streams related to population health (e.g., diabetes management, smoking cessation, etc.) you can help drive the conversation towards interventions that may help the community better address their issues.

For the purists amongst us that may find the co-opting of Social Media for marketing offensive, I would suggest that many aspects of healthcare depend on good marketing, ranging from public health messaging, to pharmaceutical ads, to disease-specific advocacy by organizations like Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, the Juvenile Diabetes Association, or the American Heart Association.


It is really about the message.

Social Media, particularly social media supported by automation software, makes it far easier for ordinary folks to reach out and touch thousands, if not millions. I am a big fan of Social Media and look forward to seeing how our profession adopts, embraces, and capitalizes on its power–hopefully for the good of our patients, their families, and well, let’s go really big…the world!






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