By Evgeniya Jung
If somebody told me just some years ago that hospitals would soon be using social media as a means to advertising their services and communicating with potential patients, I would be pretty surprised. However, big social media platforms deservedly earned their popularity in the healthcare sector due to their effectiveness in connecting those who provide healthcare services with those who are searching for them. It is true that in many countries hospitals still don’t view powerful social platforms like Twitter or Facebook as a communication tool between a potential patient and a hospital. But the fact remains: In many countries it has proven to be effective and lucrative for hospitals to use social platforms, also due to significant changes to the health insurance system in Switzerland over the years and the need for hospitals to prove their function as an economic enterprise, using the structure of Swiss Diagnosis Related Groups, the Swiss version of a fee-per-case system.
But not only hospitals can use social media to their advantage. Patients can also benefit from the use of social platforms in order to convey their wishes to those, whose services they might be using later. Being a frequent guest in hospitals due to diabetes and gaining deep understanding through my experience about how medical insurance, health centres and hospitals work, I took interest in the subject of hospitals’ involvement on social media. I am going to analyse the use of social platforms by some hospitals in Switzerland in order to show what catches an eye of a patient and what she or he expects from a hospital to publish on its page.
Sharing experience, seeking advice
First of all, it is very important for a patient to be engaged in conversations with other people, especially with those who face the same difficulties with health. Sharing experience and seeking advice is an important part of the interaction between patients and doctors or other patients, who went through the same troubles. This kind of interaction on social media can be encouraged by letting patients speak on camera about their experience through an interview (for sure, if the patient himself agrees to share his story) or letting them leave reviews and comments on social platforms. It is also advisable to let patients speak openly about their experience at the hospital, no matter if good or bad. I found it very nice that hospitals like the Universitätsspital Zürich or the Klinik Hirslanden are answering politely on Facebook to all kinds of comments from their patients and trying to solve conflicts with all possible means. It helps show people that their opinion matters and that measures are undertaken to improve the level of satisfaction with the services.
Information and trust
The second thing that is greatly appreciated by patients is the publication of educative videos and articles on the page of a hospital. I have found loads of informative articles on diverse health problems on the pages of different Swiss hospitals. However, the quality of content varies greatly. The best work done so far in this direction is the videos from the Klinik Hirslanden on YouTube. Their videos are very informative, helpful and comprehensible. It is essential to remember that most patients don’t have medical education and they shouldn’t get a feeling like they don’t understand what they are reading or watching. The information has to be easily interpreted and put in simple words so that even children can understand it. In this way hospitals can make connections between patients, create a friendly and caring atmosphere and build credibility and trust.
Concern and care
Another important thing that patients value greatly when it comes to relationship between hospitals and patients is the demonstration of concern and care for other people. One of the ways to show on social media that your team at the hospital is not indifferent to the suffering of others is by posting news about different humanitarian campaigns and encouraging those who are interested and want to help to take an active part in volunteering work. I found it touching, when I discovered a link on the Facebook page of the Stadtspital Waid in Zürich to a project that a group of doctors organized in order to help establish basics for accident surgery in Tanzania. The Stadtspital Waid reported about their trip and the work the doctors are doing there. It is a great way to show support for the people who have no access to good medical care and social media can help build awareness and sympathy.
Since social media platforms are gaining popularity not only among private internet users, but also in business, it is only left to say that every hospital that wants to ensure its further success and development needs to consider being active on social platforms. Many hospitals in Switzerland are moving in the right direction, providing all the information needed for the patients about the hospital itself and its services. It allows building a bridge between a patient and a hospital, because communication is the very first and most important step in promoting mutual cooperation and trust between the two parties.
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