SIIM: Radiology providers should not ignore social media

source Aunt Minnie

Social media is important to a radiology department or practice because it’s a marketing tool with the potential to reach millions. It can help healthcare providers communicate with patients and physicians, delivering focused, timely messaging to target audiences and generating dialogue in ways that conventional websites cannot.

For a medical specialty that is invisible to some patients and misunderstood by many others, social media provides a way for radiologists to more directly connect with their constituents, and the tools can be used to enhance brand awareness with referring physicians, according to Dr. Safwan Halabi of Henry Ford Health System.

“This is free advertising,” he said. “It expands your sphere of impact. You can use it to deliver timely, engaging, entertaining, informal, thought-provoking information. You can begin a dialogue with patients and potential patients who want to communicate the way they prefer to communicate: right now, when they want to, with texting and tweeting. Don’t ignore this opportunity.”

Develop a plan

Like all marketing tools, it’s important to develop a strategic plan. A radiology department needs to identify its target markets and create a communications plan for each of them. It doesn’t hurt to look at what the competition is doing — or, for that matter, what anyone else in the world is doing, as social media has no boundaries. Develop a competitive analysis portfolio, he urged.

Halabi also offered the following suggestions:

    • Allocate staff to use social media. It’s time consuming to generate content, and when you start a social media dialogue, someone has to be at the other end to respond.
    • Create a daily or weekly plan to stay fresh; stagnant sites don’t get revisited. The impact is worse if a Facebook page is stagnant.
    • Incorporate blogging.
    • Create a form of measurement to analyze the effects of your initiatives. Google Analytics is one excellent free tool.
    • Recommend and share content that originates from other sources. This isn’t considered plagiarism in the world of social media.


Crowdsourcing is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people and especially from the online community rather than from traditional employees or suppliers.”

It’s used by Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions to solve problems and make intelligent decisions. The powerful and versatile tool represents one way that social media can positively affect hospital operations.

Getting feedback from clinical users regarding new software has been a challenge for IT managers for decades. Dr. Carl Miller conducted a poll of SIIM session attendees to ask how many clinicians had participated in the latest software evaluation they’d undertaken.

Not surprising to him, the average number of clinicians with an opinion was three to five. “Now what if you could get dozens? Crowdsourcing has the power to do this,” he said.

Not having clinical input by future users can impede adoption and utilization of software programs, with costly results. Miller cited a $34 million mistake made by Cedars-Sinai Hospital in 2002, when a computerized physician order-entry (CPOE) system was implemented with minimal clinician input. The software was not a hit. In fact, the clinicians refused to use it.

“Few clinicians have the time to attend an onsite scheduled demo,” Miller said. “You need to bring the demo to the clinicians, make it convenient for them, and remind them repeatedly that their opinion is needed and they should participate. Online access and social media can make this happen.”

When selecting clinical viewing software for medical imaging, the evaluation team members at Hopkins first screened commercial offerings. The process included assessments of what platforms were the fastest and most convenient to use, and what they thought would meet the needs of clinicians at patients’ bedsides, doing rounds, or in their offices. They narrowed the selection to three viewers, and then set up simulations that could be assessed online.

A campaign was launched to invite clinicians to participate, to engage their interest, and to remind them to take a test drive because their opinions mattered. More than 300 participated, which included reviewing the simulations followed by a simple survey.

“The response was overwhelming and definitive,” he said. “One viewer got the overwhelming vote from the clinicians. It became very easy for us to make a decision, and we were confident that its adoption would be a success.”

The negative side of social media

Inappropriate comments through social media have cost otherwise vital employees their jobs at Indiana University Health. An appalling lack of common sense with a single tweet can have horrific repercussions.

Attorney Valita Fredland, associate general counsel and chief privacy officer, advised of an alarming number of events relating to inappropriate use of social media.

“The dark side of social media is that tweets and Facebook postings by employees are not controlled by a hospital and yet can do intense damage,” she said. “I see too many instances in which otherwise intelligent people do not use common sense.”

“Think of anything that you post in the following context: Would you want what you say displayed on a billboard adjacent to a freeway for the world to see?” Fredland asked.

She cited examples of residents’ posts that ended up being screen-captured and mailed to the hospital’s chief executive officer. The consequences for those individuals were dire.

“Don’t let a post be a career-breaker,” she warned. “It has that potential.”

She also pointed out that the law is very hazy about what an employer can legally do or not do. An example of this uncharted area is forcing employees to open their Facebook pages to access those of a friended colleague.

All healthcare facilities need to be proactive with education and policies for social media posting. The American Medical Association (AMA), among other organizations, offers guidelines. Employees and staff need to thoroughly understand how social media can violate HIPAA regulations.

It’s vital to continually monitor what is being said about one’s healthcare facility or practice, Fredland said. Patients’ comments can be very damaging, and they need to be responded to in a timely manner. At larger organizations, this is a full time job.

Everyone needs to remember that nothing disappears with social media, she emphasized.

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