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Social media offers patients ability to go public about healthcare

Kate Grey

When one of their patients had a poor experience, Maggie Rafferty, RN, and her team at Dignity Health-St. Rose Dominican in Henderson, Nev., found out about it right away. The patient was blogging and tweeting about his dissatisfaction in real time, while still in the ED. While thousands of followers and readers received details about his experience, Rafferty and her team rapidly responded, with a positive result in the end.

“It was a wake-up call in a good way,” said Rafferty, chief experience officer. “One of our key learns about social media is the value of the medium, both to identifying patient care concerns and also to recognizing staff. It’s so instant, we can make quick fixes — sometimes even while the patient is still here.”

Rafferty and Kate Grey, vice president of strategic marketing, have observed increasing use of social media to voice both raves and rants about healthcare experiences. They recently explained how social media can be used to augment formal measures of patient experience in “Beyond Patient Experience Surveys: Leveraging Social Media to Glean Patient Feedback,” published in Nurse Leader.

Grey said the most prominent social media outlets for healthcare and for society as a whole are Facebook, Yelp and Twitter. The ED patient who aired his dissatisfaction while still in the hospital posted a negative review on Yelp, stating his need for staff to listen more. Rafferty said her team took his concern to heart. “We contacted him and he gave us additional feedback about his experience,” she said. We learned so much from that.” Rafferty said the hospital’s quick response impressed the man, who later revised his review of the hospital. “Patients are surprised to hear from us. They don’t often hear back about complaints.”

While negative feedback enables a healthcare organization to respond rapidly and make needed adjustments, positive feedback also is useful as a means for recognizing staff’s good work.

As patients more frequently use social media to talk about their healthcare experiences, they’re sharing it with a very broad audience, Rafferty said. “They’ll tell on Facebook about their experiences at Disneyland, and say similar things about their experiences in the patient-care setting.”

Rafferty and Grey are fine-tuning this avenue of patient feedback and eventually want to use this information for more process improvement.

What nurses need to know

Rafferty and Grey shared the following information nurses need to know about social media:

• Know there are no gatekeepers as to what people are sharing in their social media feedback. Realize patients are not your Facebook friends. You may care for them or a family member while they’re in the hospital, but you’re not their friend.

• Determine what your facility’s marketing/communications department is already doing.

• Understand your organization’s policies and procedures on use of social media. If your organization doesn’t have a policy, look at those of other healthcare systems and see if they’ll share.

• Know the HIPAA guidelines and rules related to patient confidentiality.

• Suggest your facility implement strategic, enterprise-level data-mining solutions with your system’s IT department. Many companies can use big data such as HCAHPS, Avatar and other metrics in tandem to analyze social media and provide high-level overviews.

• Be aware that people are very open with their feedback. “They say very personal things,” Rafferty said. This can be an eye opener. Even though it’s a public forum, everything is unveiled.

“More than ever, patients have choices,” Rafferty said. “They’ll look up reviews and feedback related to what they’re going to buy, and also the hospital where they’re going to have a procedure. Social media is not going away, it’s going to get much broader.”

By | 2020-04-15T09:20:23-04:00 November 10th, 2014|Categories: Regional, West|0 Comments

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