US hospitals are not leveraging Facebook to engage patients, improve brand recognition, build communities or just about anything else, a new study finds.
Verasoni Worldwide and Simon Associates conducted the study, which did praise children’s hospitals as pioneers in the use of the popular social networking site.
The study quantified the extent to which hospitals engaged in typical Facebook activities like posting on their walls, using the event function and discussion boards, offering engagement opportunities like games and photo sharing, and providing links to hospital-sponsored blogs and Twitter accounts.
It focused on 120 hospitals of various sizes and types (including academic medical centers, community hospitals and safety net hospitals) in every state. The study took place between December 15, 2010 and January 12, 2011.
Key results from the study include:
Although all hospitals had a presence on Facebook, only 8 (6%) had at least 10,000 fans. More than 50% of the hospitals had less than 1,000 fans. Two of the leaders were Children’s Hospital of Boston (465,073 fans) and Seattle’s Children’s Hospital (15,510 fans).
Only 48 hospitals (40%) posted daily on their walls. Unsurprisingly, these hospitals had more encounters with patients (both current and prospective) and providers. Ninety-six others posted between once per month and twice per week. Once again, children’s hospitals led the way in terms of post frequency.
Just over half (63) the hospitals used Facebook’s event calendar to promote hospital events.
Seventy-six hospitals (63%) had no unsolicited feedback or questions on their pages.
Only 5 hospitals had games, apps, contests or incentives, and a majority of hospitals, 66 (58%), did not allow members to share photos on their Facebook page. Several children’s hospitals allowed parents to post photos of their ‘well’ children, with notes of thanks to hospital staff.
More than 100 hospitals (86%) did not integrate blogs into their Facebook page, and only 10 integrated their Twitter feeds into Facebook.
“While the numbers clearly indicate that patients are on Facebook, it is the job of hospitals to find them, and engage them in a meaningful way. And just because a hospital is on Facebook doesn’t mean that they are building a meaningful Facebook experience for both the hospital and the patient,” Abe Kasbo, a study co-author said in an interview.
“As hospitals face major changes in the coming healthcare environment, they must recognize that the media landscape has changed,” the authors concluded. “Overall, the majority of hospitals in this study do not use Facebook to advance their mission and business goals. It is time for hospitals to recognize the opportunities that Facebook (in particular) and social media (in general) offer as hospitals seek to improve access to care and develop deeper partnerships with patients, families and communities.”
On hospital pages where there was a high degree of interaction between the hospital and members…patients, family members, friends and members of the community used the hospital’s Facebook presence to share and connect. Facebook allowed people to tell their own stories of hope and struggle and to share them with others who had similar concerns related to a health topic or a disease state.”