by Debby Scheinholtz
One in three U.S. adults has gone online to figure out a medical condition, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. In addition, in the era of the Affordable Care Act, patients—including newly insured Blacks and Latinos—will be more likely to choose their hospitals; patients are now checking out online hospital reviews before checking in.
Hospitals have to be savvy in targeting social media to relevant demographic groups. Here's what's new.
WOMEN FAVOR PINTEREST
Women are more likely than men to go online to research health information, according to Pew.
Women are also more likely to make healthcare decisions for their families, according to the Center for American Progress.
Pinterest, a site that lets individuals organize images and ideas into "pinboards," just like brick-and-mortar bulletin boards, is particularly popular with women. About 25 percent of female Internet users are on Pinterest—five times the number of male users, according to Pew.
The Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media is training practitioners to use Pinterest to engage women. Dr. Farris Timimi, Medical Director of the center, recently met with employees in Mayo's OB-GYN department to ensure that they are comfortable using Pinterest. "For their patients, Pinterest can be extraordinarily useful for issues that are very relevant for that population."
Mayo's Pinterest page includes a board for pregnancy that has a high re-pin rate. "For our obstetricians and gynecologists, Pinterest is a much better fit, because it's a tool that has high penetration in a population that we want to educate. The retweet rate is about 1.4 percent; the repin rate is about 80 percent, so it's a much more social tool than Twitter is," says Dr. Timimi. Mayo Clinic is No. 6 on The DiversityInc Top 10 Hospital Systems list.
LATINOS LIKE TWITTER
Seventy-two percent of Latino Internet users use social-media sites, according to Pew, the highest among whites, Latinos and Blacks.
Latino presence on Twitter is 19 percent—36 percent higher than that of whites.
Mayo Clinic's @ClinicaMayo launched two years ago and recently held its first Spanish chat session.
Susana Shephard, Social Media Specialist, runs @ClinicaMayo. She says the feed, which attracts visitors from around the globe, shares patient-education information from Mayo and organizations like the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association.
Because Latinos are less likely to monitor their health, engaging them via Twitter and other online tools could help close the gap.
HOSPITAL REVIEWS MIRROR POSITIVE PATIENT OUTCOMES
Consumers who expect to be treated with respect at a restaurant or a hotel expect the same from a hospital—and they're going online to share experiences. Fourteen percent of Americans went online last year to consult hospital rankings, according to Pew.
Two recent studies show that online reviews of hospitals reflect hospitals' actual HCAHPS scores. One study found that hospitals with a lot of "likes" on Facebook had lower mortality rates and better patient reviews.
Another study found that hospitals that had four or five stars on Yelp (more commonly thought of as a restaurant-review site) had better mortality and readmission scores.
Cultural competence is often mentioned in these Yelp reviews, such as this one for Cleveland Clinic, No. 3 on The DiversityInc Top 10 Hospital Systems list: "My father-in-law is in town from Puerto Rico. ... We were assigned a very nice interpreter. ... Instead of interpreting, she was really there to comfort us and answer any questions we had during the process. She would simply show up each time we had an appointment and she visited after the surgery too. This whole process left me in awe ... of the superior level of service that they strive to provide every moment of every day."
Cleveland Clinic also made some of its part-time social-media staff full-time so they can respond better to patient comments. A recent post on "7 ways minority men can live healthier" had 368 likes.