Hospitals are using social media, like Twitter, Facebook, and blogs, for advertising to patients

Traditionally conservative hospitals are opening up on social media platforms.

For those who follow this blog, or are on Twitter, you’ll probably notice that more and more medical institutions are having a Web 2.0 presence. Facebook groups, Twitter, blogs, or YouTube webcasts, for instance. Indeed, there’s even reports of academic centers using Facebook to recruit for difficult to fill clinical trials.

A recent article in The NY Times outlines the phenomenon, and they interestingly note that hospitals were dragged kicking and screaming into the social media fray, perhaps by the uber-competitive nature of attracting patients.

So, although live-Tweets of medical procedures provide a level of transparency that was previously unheard of, and patients can receive a faster response to their concerns, it’s more likely that hospitals are using social media more to gain a marketing edge on their competitors, rather than for the patient’s welfare.

But since much of American medicine is a business anyways, is that really a surprise?

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  • David Block MD, PhD

    Why do you assume that “marketing edge” and “patient welfare” are mutually exclusive? Isn’t “patient welfare” the very “marketing edge” every physician and hospital seeks to publicize?

    There is too often that idea of “the smell of filthy lucre” in health care analysis. We assume that physicians and hospitals, for example, will never simply do the right thing; only the Common Man and Woman will, and even then, only in “the ‘hood” after being reminded of “who we really are” in the face of a radical threat to identity. Perhaps every medical practice should be in Sweet Home Alabama. As a neurologist, I like fantasy even more than the next guy.

    “Motives are always suspect, are they not?” we ask. We are always selling advertising. We are always telling folks how popular we are for a reason. Now that the social contract of Medicine is broken, let us always ask, “Cui bono?” Right?

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