72% of Internet users say they have looked online for health information within the past year. 52% of smartphone owners have used their phone to look up health or medical information (Pew Internet Research). Increasingly, people are exploring various health-related topics online, taking an active interest in personal health awareness, and educating themselves about diseases and health conditions. The Social Media Revolution is here, which means healthcare organizations need to find novel ways to adapt to these changes and more effectively meet the needs of patients in our technology-driven culture. The question is how? Perhaps one way is by hosting and managing a Blog.
I recently explored the potential of blogging in healthcare by taking a closer look at blogs currently available to patients, their families, and healthcare staff. While blogging is still a relatively new communication medium in healthcare settings, there are a number of organizations actively using blogs as an extension to clinical care services, for example CHEO Moms & Dads, Sharing Mayo Clinic, and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.
My personal favorite is Thriving – Boston Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Health Blog.
Thriving captures my attention right away with its colorful layout and appealing design. But, more importantly, I find the authenticity and realness of the stories to be interesting, thought-provoking, sincere and engaging. With the narratives there are photos and videos of families and Boston Children’s staff throughout Thriving posts, adding a genuine personal touch and providing readers with an honest reflection of bloggers’ health challenges. Comments from Thriving readers are both supportive and heartfelt, and spread to many other readers through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, demonstrating its widespread potential. Thriving is a unique ‘public-private’ space for bloggers to voice their personal journeys toward healing while benefiting from engagement with others in a supportive online community. But…I’ll let the stories speak for themselves. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Mock my pants, not my sister (24,000 Facebook likes, 590 Tweets, 264 Comments)
- Dominic’s craniofacial surgery (990 Facebook likes, 22 Tweets, 24 Comments)
- Hope for children with a rare “aging” disease (51 Facebook likes, 3 Tweets)
- Celebrating the ones that slipped away (179 Facebook likes, 6 Tweets, 7 Comments)
- Halloween – Boston Children’s Style (178 Facebook likes, 11 Tweets)
In the midst of the digital revolution healthcare organizations must look for creative ways to evolve. The integration of a blog may be a viable, low-cost communication and engagement strategy worth pursuing, enhancing patient/provider interaction, and supporting the emotional and social needs of patients and staff. Additionally, a blog can be an effective tool for a healthcare organization to build its online presence and reputation, add a personal touch to the organization and its staff, and spread valuable health-related information to a vast and varied audience. By monitoring and ‘listening’ to the discussions taking place online, organizations can also use this information to tailor healthcare services.
The potential benefits of blogging in healthcare is worth consideration (and more research!) especially with compelling examples like Thriving and others so best practices can be shared and patient care can be enhanced with the addition of social media tools.
Here’s some good reading on this topic:
- Bringing the Social Media Revolution to Health Care – from Mayo Clinic who are considered leaders of using social media in healthcare to enhance healthcare services
- Groundswell, winning in a world transformed by social technologies – a comprehensive guide for how to take advantage of social media
- Let patients help! – a patient engagement handbook by ePatient Dave who is considered the first patient to share his personal health experiences in a blog
Michelle studied Boston Children’s “Thriving” using Ethnographic Content Analysis, a qualitative research technique useful for the study of online content. If you have questions or would like to learn more, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org