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Mayo Clinic to open social media center

  • Article by: CHEN MAY YEE
  • Star Tribune
  • July 27, 2010 - 6:59 AM

Mayo Clinic is opening a Center for Social Media to train other health care organizations to use Twitter, YouTube and Facebook to connect patients and doctors.

The new center will run workshops, offer consulting and host conferences.

The move into social media is an unusual one in the hospital industry. Hospitals tend to be conservative organizations jealously guarding their public image, and social media continues to make many hospital executives uncomfortable: What if an employee says something wrong? What if a patient says something bad about the hospital?

But Mayo, which started podcasting in 2005, has embraced social media, which it sees as an extension of old-fashioned word-of-mouth marketing. Lee Aase, a Mayo public relations manager who has become something of an evangelist in health care marketing circles, will help lead the center.

"Before, it was taking time out of my day job to do this, to be a good citizen and all. In this case, we will be consulting with hospitals for pay," Aase said.

The center will employ about eight people and have $800,000 a year in initial funding.

In addition to marketing, Aase said he hopes to explore using social media to deliver continuing medical education courses for physicians and also help Mayo's 56,000 employees communicate better among themselves.

Just 15 to 20 percent of the nation's 5,000 hospitals are using social media, said Ed Bennett, director of Web strategy at the University of Maryland Medical System.

"Hospitals still have a lot of legitimate questions about the right way to do it," Bennett said. "Having an organization with the reputation of Mayo Clinic come in and be there as a resource makes a lot of sense."

Chen May Yee • 612-673-7434

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