Now here’s a cool idea – the Mayo Clinic recently launched a Center for Social Media to teach social media to staff, physicians and patients. Traditionally, social media has been seen as a purely marketing function and under the Mayo Clinic’s PR and marketing team; however, this initiative will take social media to doctors, patients and even other hospitals.
Internally, the Center for Social Media will educate doctors on how they can communicate with their patients via YouTube, blogs, and other social media tools. The Center will also help help other health care institutions learn to do the same, offering use of the Center (for a fee of course) to other hospitals or patient foundations.
According to a Wall Street Journal interview with Lee Aase, one of the center’s leaders and currently manager of syndications and social media at Mayo, the focus of this project is to “provide in-depth information for patients in a much more comprehensive way, and to create connections between researchers, physicians and staff.” The Center will employ about eight full-time employees, including a medical director and have $800,000 a year in initial funding.
It’s great to see such a large healthcare institution look to new ways to engage its audiences – both internal and external. I’m really excited to track the progress of the Center, watch it grow and see if any other medical organizations follow in its footsteps and begin offering the same sort of social media education. In the past, healthcare institutions (not including the Mayo Clinic) have been slow to dip their toe in the social media waters, perhaps due to all the issues – privacy, ethics, etc. – and potential repercussions of sharing information online. Still, patients are already using social media to learn more about their illnesses or the conditions of friends and family. A recent Pew Internet study revealed that 8 in 10 internet users, or two-thirds of U.S. adults, look online for health information. People are looking for answers online, and now doctors can have the tools and education to know how to appropriate respond to this growing audience.