If you’re following the social trend, you’re smitten over Twitter, the free online micro-blogging platform. It allows users to publish short updates that friends, family and co-workers can follow.(1)
Within eight months of its launch in October 2006, Twitter gained nearly 100,000 users. This growth trend continues as the number of user posts consistently doubles each month.
What does this mean for the health care industry? Twitter can serve as an extremely effective, yet low-cost marketing tool—serving as a common thread between health care providers and their patients. Think of it as agood online bedside manner.
Keep in touch
What if patients could have just-in-time appointment reminders or final instructions before lab tests? With Twitter, this is possible. Patients can “Follow,” or sign up to receive updates from, your organization regarding relevant information pertinent to their care, but still within privacy guidelines.
Consider these possibilities:
- Alert patients of the day’s pollen count
- Gain momentum for public events, such as flu clinics or blood drives
- Develop forums in which patients with a common struggle or goal can seek support
- Remind patients of services or special promotions offered by your institution
Twitter allows for direct replies and non-public Tweets, so your facility (with patient permission) can also use Twitter to instantly update the families of patients being treated.
Free flow of information
Twitter can serve as a forum between health care providers. Useful information can be shared quickly and easily across networks to assure your patients the best possible care when it’s needed. If a doctor in any field has a question or would like to share a new technique or idea, they can simply update their Twitter profile and the staff at every link medical institution will be able to view the suggestion or query.
During conferences or while doing research, doctors, nurses and eye care and dental professionals can share information they learn as they come across it so new techniques can be put into use right away—rather than be put in a report and forgotten. Start a Twitter group conversation topic by inputting “#” before the topic name in each post (i.e. #MedConf). That way, others in the conversation can simply search the #(topic) to find out the latest updates and thoughts from peers.
Social forums such as Twitter are best utilized when there’s a large following. Here are some tips to get your staff and their patients involved.
When you take advantage of Twitter, you immediately provide a link between your health care facility and its patients. It’s yet one more way to add value and promote good bedside manner, ensuring patients keep coming back.
(1) Java, Akshay, Xiaodan Song, Tom Finin, and Belle Tseng. “Why We Twitter: Understanding Microblogging Usage and Communities.” Procedings of the Joint 9th WEBKDD and 1st SNA-KDD Workshop 2007 (2007).