Social Networking And Healthcare Are You Tweeting?

  • Article by: NANCY CROTTI , Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
  • Updated: July 1, 2009 - 12:58 PM

Healthcare and social networking? Why not? Other businesses do it and healthcare is a business, if a compassion-driven one. Following a national trend, area healthcare providers are feeling their way along, adding applications to reach the general public and current patients.

Like anything viral, the use of social media takes time to spread, and it's begun spreading through healthcare. Twin Cities' hospitals and healthcare systems have begun dabbling in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube, mostly for publicity and hiring purposes.

One physician, John Butler, M.D. of HealthPartners' Arden Hills Clinic, has been blogging (drbutlersblog.com at www.healthpartners.com) and "tweeting," or sending messages of up to 140 characters on Twitter, inspired by his college-age son.

The Tweeting Internist

Butler's tweets may be related to work or play. He follows healthcare-related tweets, such as those from the Centers for Disease Control, for professional reasons. "When the swine flu came out, I was right up to the second on how many cases were out there and where they were," he says. "It was a really excellent way to be informed." Some health systems are using Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to recruit personnel for hard-to-fill jobs. "Nurse leadership jobs have always been harder to fill, just because they require a lot of experience, more education; they're in high demand at most organizations," says Cassandra Simon, a recruitment assistant who tweets for

Allina Hospitals & Clinics. (Allina tweets at AllinaComm and AllinaCareers.)

"A position such as a medical receptionist, where we might get several hundred applications in a week's period, is an example of something that we wouldn't tweet out," adds Shawna Hall, an Allina recruiter.

Engaging With Patients

Larissa Rodriguez, director of care delivery marketing for HealthPartners, says her organization uses Twitter for recruiting and marketing, and is working on ways to use it to engage with patients. "It's definitely something we're thinking about," she adds. "We created a couple of mascots (Petey P. Cup and Pokey the Syringe) to help us get the message out there. We have a Facebook page and both of our mascots use Twitter."

Regions Hospital is also on Twitter and Rodriguez expects its followers to increase with the grand opening of its new wing in late June. Other area healthcare organizations using social media include Children's Hospitals & Clinics of Minnesota, Hazelden, Mayo Clinic and North Memorial Medical Center.

Simon believes the work Allina is putting into social media now will pay off in the future. "As long as our followers are growing, that's benefitting us," she says.

Dr. Butler expects his colleagues to be a little slower to catch on. "It's something that the medical establishment has to become more aware of," he says. "I'm looking forward to it."

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