Workshop on implementing social media in healthcare

eHealth & HL7 Education Partners is holding a social media workshop in Sydney on May 31, aimed at people involved in designing, implementing and managing a social media presence in their healthcare organisation.

Trainer Klaus Veil, an adjunct associate professor at the University of Western Sydney and well-known eHealth expert, said despite mainly concentrating on the more technical aspects of eHealth such as standards, he also saw an increasing need for comprehensive education offerings on wider issues, including social media.

While some might consider social media relatively simple to use, Mr Veil said from a healthcare organisation perspective, that was not necessarily so.

“Social media is very much a two-edged sword – the reason why social media is so popular and has such broad reach is because anybody, including seniors, can actually operate it and do increasingly use it,” he said. "This of course makes it also very attractive to use in healthcare.

“So people think that it's easy but it's not - because social media from a healthcare organisation point of view needs to be integrated into their overall organisational PR and communications strategy. That applies to a large healthcare multi-national as it does to a government organisation or a two-person GP practice. All the way through, social media has to become part of the overall communications and PR activity of an organisation. That's very important.”

Mr Veil said healthcare organisations had to remember that a large part of their business is interacting with people face-to-face or by phone. When interacting with them via social media, people expect them to behave similarly.

“If you have a Facebook page or a Twitter stream with the last update in November 2012, that is not effectual,” he said. “It really is a waste of time and effort. Apart from integrating and aligning social media as part of the overall organisation's communications, it is vital to keep the social media channels alive.

“If you don't keep them alive, it's not only a useless effort, it may even harm your business. With the ads that GPs run in the local rags, it's no problem if the same ad is run every weekend, whereas social media followers might think 'that practice hasn't tweeted in six weeks – are they still open?'”

Mr Veil said the workshop covers what social media channels are suitable to communicate with which target audience and how an organisation decides whether to become active with only a few channels or many. “People are quite committed to their favourite social media channels, so if you are a larger organisation you really need to have a presence on all of them, otherwise you are missing part of your social media audience,” he said.

“However, if you are wanting to communicate with Twitter, Facebook and half a dozen other social media channels – this is apart from your local rag advertising or the flyers you put in letterboxes – suddenly this becomes a workload issue. Do you have the time and resources to additionally manage a dozen or so social media channels? Probably not. This of course leads to the question of what is the ROI. So we will look at ways how you can effectively automate a comprehensive traditional and social media presence with minimal effort.”

One important topic of the workshop is the vexed issue of how healthcare professionals use social media and the constraints they may be under when acting in a professional capacity. The RACGP, for example, has issued guidelines on how it thinks GPs should behave on social media, and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) has recently raised the ire of some doctors following the release of a discussion paper on its planned social media policy, which some believe is overly restrictive in its intentions.

“Traditionally when an organisation puts out an ad or a press release, it gets vetted by the legal team,” Mr Veil said. “However, if an employee in the marketing department tweets something, it can get easily get them into hot water, and we will discuss a number of cases where that has happened and how to avoid this.

“That's what we will also be looking at in the workshop – how the normal PR and medico-legal safeguards that are in place in healthcare organisations, and even small community practices, are extended and applied to social media communication channels.”

A practical social media presence relevant to the participants will be created in the workshop. Mr Veil said the workshop was suitable for anyone working in both large organisations and small. “The opportunities, challenges and risks are basically the same,” he said. “It's really just a question of scale.

See the eHealth & HL7 Education Partners website for more.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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