Social Media in Health Care

Social-media is becoming a much larger influence on organizational success and although social-media tactics are being implemented more frequently, there are still some hesitations from leaders as to appropriate and effective social-media use. This trepidation is especially true in healthcare considering the (justifiably) private nature of most healthcare organizations; the industry is largely based on information protected by HIPPA, with devastating penalties for noncompliance. There has been a large expansion of opportunities for organizations, even in healthcare, to get their messages out broadly and openly in the new media landscape. No, the authors of the paper “Six social-media skills every leader needs” are not advocating for leaders to start tweeting financial statements but rather they are giving advice to leaders about what they term organizational media literacy. Through interviews with various General Electric executives, Deiser and Newton came to define organizational media literacy along six dimensions:

1). The leader as a producer. Leaders need “an authentic voice, imagination, and the ability to craft compelling stories and turn them into media products that make people take note.” In other words, it is time to appear human again. Healthcare organizations can be intimidating places to the average patient so leadership that conveys effective, compelling ideas can humanize an institution.

2). The leader as the distributor. “Social communication makes distribution the starting point and then invites company audiences to co-create and contextualize content to create new meaning.” Healthcare institutions are compartmentalized and a good leader, who uses distribution to start organizational conversation, has the ability to facilitate communication, rather than build further barriers to it.

3). The leader as recipient. “Many [executives] barely find time to catch up with their daily e-mail load. What to do?” Social-media only compounds information overload. Consider, for example, the several-hundred e-mails per week that can pile up from alerts and subscriptions to major healthcare foundations and news sources. A good leader is able to sift through this information to cherry-pick compelling information; a great leader finds the information and dares to expand upon it.

4). The leader as adviser and orchestrator. “Leaders must become tutors and strategic orchestrators of all social-media activities within their control.” Don’t over-utilize these new media tools: accounts payable does not need a twitter account but maybe the clinic does. Be smart about the who, the what, the when, and the where of social-media use.

5). The leader as architect. “The leader’s task is to marry vertical accountability with networked horizontal collaboration in a way that is not mutually destructive.” Leaders must balance the unique collaborative capabilities of social media with the vital organizational structures already in place. Media that is shared openly and created through internal collaboration can lead to a very relatable organizational message.

6). The leader as analyst. “Executives who monitor weak signals and experiment with new technologies and devices will be able to act more quickly and capture the advantages of early adoption.” In terms of experimentation, healthcare is actually at the forefront, but only in the realm of medical technologies, procedures, etc. And this model actually works. Try adapting it to new outreach or marketing plans.

These skills will be of increasing importance in the coming years. So perhaps now is the time to get started or step up your leadership presence in the social-media world. Follow us on Twitter @NCHL_Leadership.

Roland Deiser and Sylvain Newton. “Six social-media skills every leader needs.” 2013. McKinsey Quarterly.

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Blog of the National Center for Healthcare Leadership

Fieldnotes on Leadership in Health and Healthcare

Fieldnotes on Leadership in Health and Healthcare

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Fieldnotes on Leadership in Health and Healthcare

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