American Medical News highlights hospital social media

American Medical News has a nice profile this morning of Dana Lewis, who exemplifies the new role, in an article titled “Hospitals’ new specialist: Social media manager.” The article begins:

For otolaryngologist Douglas Backous, MD, Twitter and blogging were “like speaking a foreign language.” So he went to his hospital and got himself a translator: Dana Lewis, hired by Seattle’s Swedish Medical Center to handle all things social media.

Lewis is part of a trend in a new and growing type of hospital employment: the social media manager.

Technically, she’s called the interactive marketing specialist. But she, and others like her, are being charged by their hospitals to handle such duties as overseeing their social media presence, communicating with patients through social media — and, in many cases, teaching affiliated or employed physicians how to use social media. The idea is that by having a person dedicated to social media, the hospital can use the technology to strengthen its connections with all of what organizations like to call their stakeholders, which include the physicians who refer patients through their doors.

Check out the whole article: Ed Bennett’s Hospital Social Networking List also is featured, as are my 35 Theses here on SMUG. It also has a nice compilation of social media best practices for hospitals, which author Bob Cook apparently synthesized from several guidelines documents.

Here’s more information on what we’re doing at Mayo Clinic, with our new Center for Social Media. I’m excited that we’ve hired candidates for four of the eight new positions with the Center, and that we have interviews this week and next for two more. I’m also honored that both Ed and Dana are on our advisory board (with 12 more members still to be named). We’re going through about 120 applications from some really strong candidates to ensure broad-based and diverse membership.

When the official online publication of the American Medical Association devotes an extensive article to the topic of social media staffing for hospitals, that’s a good sign the activity is going mainstream. We’re glad to contributing to that through the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media and the Social Media Health Network.

Hospital Twitter Chat List


Kelley O’Brien (@kelleyob) from North Carolina posed the following question via a tweet this afternoon:

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A. I’m not aware of anything like a comprehensive list of hospital Twitter chats. Ed Bennett’s Hospital Social Networking List is a great resource to tell us which hospitals have social media presence, and he even has some great hospital Twitter lists by state, but the list doesn’t include specific projects (such as surgical cases being “tweeted” that have been undertaken by hospitals or healthcare organizations.

But the great thing about social media is that you can build a list pretty quickly by crowdsourcing…via Twitter.

Or at least I think we can. Let’s see!

I’m listing below some of the Twitter chats/events I’ve been involved with through Mayo Clinic, along with some others I’m aware of that others have done.

It’s not even close to exhaustive. But that’s where you come in. If you know of hospitals that have done Twitter events, whether it was related to a surgical procedure, or a communications crisis, or promoting research findings, or whatever other ways you’ve used Twitter (or seen it used) in a hospital setting, please tell about it in the comments below.

Please include the name of the hospital, its Twitter handle, a relevant link to a post, news release or news story describing the effort, and any description you would like to add. Also please indicate which category (listed in bold below) is appropriate. And if you think I’m missing a category that should be added, please tell me that, too.

You also can share your examples via Twitter, using the #HospitalTweets tag. But by adding them in the comments below, they’ll be more permanent (since Twitter doesn’t archive tweets)…and of course, you’re not limited to 140 characters.

I will update this post based on your contributions to create a more comprehensive list.

Let’s see how quickly we can come up with a really good list!

Surgical Case Tweeting

Research Communications

Crisis Communications

Presentations and Training:

  • At @MayoClinic, we have held three Tweetcamps to provide training for staff. Here’s a post that describes Tweetcamp III.
  • When I do presentations, I regularly include a Twitter back-channel, such as this training seminar on social media I did yesterday with local advocacy chapters of American Heart Association. This is a good way for participants to get hands-on experience with Twitter.

Mainstream Media Collaboration

What other examples can you add?

Oklahoma Hospital Association

I’m delighted to be in Oklahoma City today for a presentation with @EdBennett and David Harlow (@Healthblawg) on use of social media in healthcare. I’m excited that we have this case study going on even while the presentation is happening. I will be inviting the Oklahoma tweeps to join the #wristpain twitter chat, as a live, hands-on experience with social media and synergy with mainstream media.

Getting Twitter “Traction” in Health Care

I have enjoyed working with Chris Seper at MedCity News (on this story, for example) but I think he misses the point of @EdBennett‘s list of hospitals ranked by number of Twitter followers.

And therefore I think his recommendation also is off.

Certainly some hospitals (and other organizations) have just had their Twitter accounts on autopilot, sending Tweets based on an RSS feed. If they’ve done that, though, they aren’t putting a lot of effort (or any time) into Twitter. So even if they don’t have a lot of followers, you can’t really say the project has been a failure, because the cost has been essentially zero. We did this for several months with our @mayoclinic account at the start, and while it isn’t the best approach it can be a good defensive move (see my bottom-line recommendation below.)

But comparing hospitals to celebrities like Ashton Kutcher makes no sense. In fact, as I wrote in a comment (currently awaiting moderation) on the post Chris did about Ed’s list:

Look at the TV stations in the Cleveland market: @wkyc – 3883 followers; @fox8news 2,686; @19ActionNews 1,520; @WEWS 2,098. Only one of those would crack the top 5 hospitals, and one wouldn’t match the hospital numbers at all.

I think Chris is presenting not just a false choice, but a wrong-headed recommendation, when he says:

Hospitals may be better served setting up accounts for high-profile doctors and managing those accounts, rather than trying to gain followers for an institution.

I think this is wrong on two counts:

First, it isn’t an either/or situation, i.e. to  develop an institutional Twitter presence OR encourage individual physicians to engage. There is a place for both.

Second, if the alternative would be “setting up accounts for high-profile doctors and managing those accounts” then that’s really missing the point of social media. Public affairs staff can provide guidance and training for MDs who want to use Twitter, but as Ed says, “docs will do SM on their own if so inclined. Hospitals can’t make them do it.” And hospital PR staff shouldn’t pose as MDs and “manage” accounts for them.

I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made on our @mayoclinic account: our number of followers has quadrupled in the last six months as we have become more interactive. And we also have individual physicians like @vmontori and @davidrosenman getting active in Twitter. They’re both doing some really interesting innovation projects in health care, and are interested in the application of social media.

But we’re not managing the accounts for Dr. Rosenman or Dr. Montori. And the reason DrVes, Dr Val and KevinMD have gained lots of followers is because of their personal involvement, not because someone has “managed” their accounts for them.

The Bottom Line:

  1. Hospitals, or other organizations for that matter, should have a Twitter account, if for no other reason than to keep someone from brandjacking them. But the more they engage, the more valuable they will find even this corporate account.
  2. They should encourage and train individuals who are interested to get involved personally. You can’t manufacture passion, though. If doctors and other leaders are excited about engaging, they will likely be successful. But ghost-tweeting by PR staff would be the wrong approach.

8 Steps to Sustainable Blogging

Note: This is a piece I contributed to a social media guide published by the Texas Hospital Association. It’s really very well done (the overall guide, I mean. You’ll need to be the judge on this particular article.) If you’d like to get a copy of the complete guide, which includes contributions from @EdBennett@ChrisBoyer@Billfer@DaphneLeigh and @JennTex, @reedsmith of the THA has them available for sale. You can order one or see the table of contents here. But meanwhile, here’s my contribution:

Many people are intimidated by the thought of starting a blog. Some of this angst results from misunderstandings: they think a blog is some mysterious creation, when in reality it is an easy-to-publish Web site that allows comments. But some of the trepidation results from a true understanding: starting a blog means you need to regularly update it to keep the content fresh.

The purpose of this article is to provide tips for developing a sustainable blog, not in the ecological sense (though the so-called “carbon footprint” of a blog is toddler-sized), but from the “How can I start small and give the blog a strong path to growth?” perspective. Here are a few tips:

  1. Start with a hosted blogging platform. I used and highly recommend it. You can get started for free, and for less than $80 a year you can have a blog with the same look as your main Web site that can host a podcast and that is mapped to a subdomain of your main site. But that’s the next step.
  2. Choose your URL and map to it. I mapped my personal blog to and with my work we have blogs at and and, for instance. By doing this, instead of the default URL, you preserve your blog’s ability to grow and move later to a self-hosted WordPress installation without having your incoming links break. That preserves your precious Google juice.
  3. Use video. I use and like the Flip video camera, which costs about $150 for standard definition and $230 or so for HD. Other cameras are available at similar prices. Particularly if you have busy subject experts you want to include in the blog, you’ll have much more success if you can embed video instead of asking them to write. And if they ask you to write for them, that will make your blog inauthentic. Being able to upload video quickly via a built-in USB connector makes it easier for everyone.
  4. Use lots of “tags.” Tags are labels you apply to your posts, which are your way of telling search engines what the post is about. This makes it easier for people looking for your information to find it.
  5. Use descriptive titles or headlines. In WordPress, your headline becomes part of the URL, which has search engine implications. So a cute, human-oriented headline may be less helpful from an SEO perspective. A way around this is to edit the URL for search, but still have the clever play on words in the title.
  6. Schedule posts in advance. You can take a vacation from blogging by using this feature in WordPress, which enables you to set a day and time when you want the post to be published. So you can work ahead and then take off on vacation, knowing that the content will stay fresh even while you personally refresh.
  7. Decide whether comment moderation is necessary. Akismet does a great job in WordPress of weeding out spam comments. If you don’t require comment moderation, your readers will have more immediate gratification for sharing their thoughts, and it will be less work for you.
  8. Use multiple contributors. WordPress and some other blog publishing platforms offer hierarchies and workflows, so you can share the publishing load among many users. Contributors can write, but posts must be edited and approved by, well…an editor. Authors can write and publish on their own. Administrators can add other users. Multiple contributors also helps with that vacation we talked about in #6.