I was invited to comment and share my perspective on the recent Wall Street Journal article, “More Hospitals Use Social Media to Gather Feedback from Patients’ Families.”
Good article, good initiatives, and I would assume very helpful to the handful of families using the site. But then again, passengers on the Titanic who wished for ice for their drinks probably were not amused to learn that there was much more to their request than met the eye.
I recently met with the CMO of one of the preeminent hospitals in the US. To her estimate, the hospital system had more than 1,200 URLs (apparently the only person who had not created a URL was the cafeteria’s sous-chef). The CMO did not know precisely how many sites there were, did not know the nature of the sites, and had neither a digital patient experience strategy nor a mobile strategy. The hospital didn’t know where it was going, but it was making really good time getting there.
Health systems face major obstacles when dipping their toes into the pool of social media and social-CRM. Social Media is an emotional battleground; any firm, including hospitals, is entering a battle of wits for which most are woefully unarmed. It is like bringing a water pistol to do battle with an M-1 Abrams tank.
Crowd Sourcing 101. People — think patients — know instinctively how to do it. Hospitals, on the other hand, are learning how to react to it. They are trying to put the toothpaste back into the tube.
One application of crowdsourcing often overlooked is the one which hardly fits the definition. This type is not premeditated. It is the type where the “machine” is a means to an end, and it does not originate within a company. More often than not, the company is the target of this type of crowdsourcing — Social-CRM.
The traditional definition of crowdsourcing involves a call going out to a group of individuals who are then gathered to solve a complex problem, much like the Law of Large Numbers. By default, traditional crowdsourcing is fashioned to work from the top down; it is a push model.
Social-CRM (S-CRM) tends to work from the bottom up. There are no boundaries to the number of members — patients, former patients, and prospective patients can all join in. There can be thousands of members. Also atypical is the fact with S-CRM, no single event or call to action drives the formation of the crowd. The crowd can have as many events as it has members.
If you were to picture your hospital’s social media efforts, you may picture two people ensconced in an office that used to be a basement closet. These two individuals man the hospital’s social media effort — one dedicated to Facebook and LinkedIn, the other focused on Twitter and YouTube.
The unifying force around S-CRM is each member’s perspective of a given firm or organization. Members are often knitted together by having felt wronged or put-off by an action, product, or service provided or not provided by the organization, the health system. Most organizations do not listen to, nor can they communicate with, the S-CRM crowdsource. This in turn causes the membership to grow and to become even more steadfast in the individual missions of their members.
In traditional crowdsourcing, once the problem is solved, the crowd no longer has a reason to exist, and it disbands. With S-CRM crowdsourcing, since the problem never seems to go away, neither does the crowd.
Every hospital has one or more S-CRM groups biting at its ankles, hurting its image, hurting the brand, causing customers to flee, and disrupting the business model. Even so, most organizations ignore the S-CRM crowd just like someone ignores their crazy Uncle Pete who disrupts every family gathering.
So here is my point. Using social media can be a good thing. But to be a good thing, a health system’s use of social media should be part of its global patient experience strategy. Since less than 20 percent of hospitals have a global patient experience strategy — and for those that do, the strategy does not exist beyond the hospital’s four walls — it takes a real cockeyed-optimist to believe that the social media strategy is of any value.
If a social media strategy fell in the woods and nobody tweeted it, would it make a difference?
Social media should be there to serve one master — enhancing the experience of patients and prospective patients. If it isn’t doing that, it is just another one of the ambiguous 1,200 URLs.
Before crafting a social media strategy, a hospital should define a global patient experience strategy. If you do not have one, consider using this strategy as a placeholder: A Remarkable Experience for Every Person Every Time on Every Device. (I use the term ‘person’ rather than ‘patient’ because more prospective patients visit the hospital every day than do actual patients.)
Using this placeholder, a hospital can then assess where it is relative to the goal. Experiences are also formed before HCAHPs and after discharge. Nobody other than a hospital employee or an employee of CMS has ever heard of HCAHPs. The fact that your hospital is spending millions of dollars to improve its HCAHPs score means nothing to a cancer patient who spent three hours on hold trying to schedule a follow-up appointment. If you want to innovate and use social media to be transformative, create an app that allows the patient to schedule their appointment on their iPad.
Your hospital’s score means nothing to the 20 people arriving at 6 a.m. for a medical procedure, each of whom is sitting in the waiting area reading a five-year-old copy of The Latin American Economist as they wait to be admitted. What if they could have self-admitted the night before on their tablet?
In healthcare, the Internet isn’t what it never was.
What is the Internet for if you happen to run a hospital? It is the one tool that can make it easier for everyone to do business with your hospital. Write that down. But it cannot do it on its own. Create a global patient experience strategy, one that includes HCAHPs and all of the other things that are not being addressed. Things like a digital strategy —website, patient portal, social media, S-CRM — your hospital’s nonclinical functions available 24/7 on any device, a CRM and call center strategy, and one that improves nonclinical, 40-year-old processes like scheduling, admissions, billing, claims, and complaints.
Do that, and all of a sudden, every person who interacts with your hospital at least has a chance at having a remarkable experience. And those that do will be back.