Part 1 of a 3 part series The next level of growth In healthcare’s use of social media, must come from    the within the organization by involving all employees in the effort. Preface

For many healthcare provider organizations, social media has become an extension of external marketing efforts.  And while  big external wins, like viral videos or news coverage of tweets can help create internal momentum, too often these actions are little more than glorified sales pitches. To truly be successful in the use of social media, providers need to begin thinking about engaging their employees in the social conversation and. creating a team of online ambassadors who serve each other and their customers more effectively. In the case of healthcare, it means engaging the  entire staff of caregivers in the conversation about bettering the patient experience.

The story so far If seven human years equal a dog year, how would we calculate an internet year?

Only twelve to sixteen months have passed since early adopters got serious about social media in the healthcare industry. A lot has happened during that short period of time. Just recently the #HCSM twitter chat celebrated its first birthday. According to Ed Bennett’s Found in Cache, over 500 hospitals now have some kind of social web presence.  We’ve seen surgeries tweeted, the Pink Glove Dance go viral, doctors tweeting, and iPhone applications for hospitals. So what does the coming year look like for healthcare social media?

Most, if not all,  healthcare providers  share the collective goal of improving patient experience. Sometimes, this is expressed as clinical excellence; sometimes as increased efficiency. Regardless of wording, having an entire organization discussing this type of improvement can strengthen a provider’s ability to deliver care. Just as there is a correlation between engaged employees and good service, so too is there a connection between connected employees and empowerment.

During the past two years at the hospital where I am employed, we have seen how increased employee engagement has  improved everything from patient satisfaction to clinical outcomes.

Well cared for, happy employees serve customers with an exuberance that comes from a sense of pride that cannot be induced by coaching alone. The exuberance and best in class service I have observed  across multiple service industries is a result of establishing and sustaining a company’ culture of serving customers with pride, anticipating patient needs, and caring about positive outcomes. This type of culture is rooted in engaged employees who believe in the organization’s mission. And just as service emerges from a culture of engaged employees, social media must emerge from engaged participants.

Prediction This next year for healthcare social media will be an opportunity for progressive providers to grow in amazing ways. I say this is the year that organizations that truly embrace openness and transparency will move to the forefront. Social tools have a role inside of organizations. When they’re used to help flatten the org chart and promote discourse, the entire enterprise benefits and convey an important ethic that branding alone cannot match. The path has been paved in this last year. The very social tools that we have been using externally have an immense power when they are applied internally. More on that thought soon...

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This post is shared with much gratitude to Meredith Gould for her editorial guidance