Healthcare Social Media: How to put it to work for you

A cold wind is blowing in from the north, blowing so hard that at times that the rain seems to be falling sideways, echoing off the windowpanes like handfuls of pea gravel. The leaves from the walnut trees, that had prematurely yellowed, dance a minuet as they slowly make their way to the ground in the woods. It feels like the first day of fall, a day for jeans, a long sleeve shirt, and a pair of long woolen socks. The temperature has nosedived. On a normal day, the first indication of sunrise would have begun to push the darkness from the sky. But today is not a normal day. The clouds are hanging low and gray against the dark sky.

The garage door creaked and moaned as it rose along the aluminum track. Halogen headlights pierced the darkness. Its driver, an unkempt and rather rotund woman in her 40s eased the car down her driveway and proceeded through the still slumbering neighborhood. She was a friendless woman, who along with her husband and daughter kept to herself. The neighborhood children were afraid of her, too frightened to retrieve a ball if it fell into her yard and certainly too scared to Trick-or-Treat at her home.

“Were those your dogs barking? I was asleep,” she screeched at me as she exited the car wearing her oversized pajamas. The site alone was enough to frighten children and a few grown men. “I’m going to find out whose dogs were barking,” she chided. “And when I do, someone will be hearing from me. I took my last neighbors to court because their dog barked. I don’t like children. I don’t like dogs. I don’t like yard work, and I don’t want to be invited to any community activities.” I feel pretty confident she won’t have to worry about being swamped by invitations.

It was actually almost ten in the morning the day she registered her complaint—dawn to some people I guess. Three days later, the letter arrived in the mail. The return address indicated it was from a homeowners association. The letter stated that if we couldn’t control the barking of our dogs that we would be reported to the community board of directors. For second, we didn’t know how to react—then we started to laugh. The reason for the laughter was simple; my wife is on the Board of Directors. It’s like the East German Stasi are alive and well and living in Pennsylvania. I can picture this woman hiding behind her drapes, her little steno pad in hand, recording each and every bark that disrupts her bliss.

She’s a tattletale, a 40-something whose problem solving skills never grew beyond that of a third grader. She lives right next door, 100 feet away. We’ve only seen her three times in the 28 months we’ve lived here. Six months ago she sent us a fax, complaining about something or other. A fax, mind you. To her next door neighbor. This is too easy. It’s social networking run amok. She has become my poster child for bad manners, a benchmark against which all subsequent social networking commentaries will be measured.

There are many good social networking opportunities, especially for large healthcare providers.  Such as?  Do you record the number of patient calls you get each year by call type?  The fully loaded cost of each call is probably somewhere around twenty dollars.  It costs a lot of money each time you answer the phone; do you spend it effectively?

What percentage of those calls are resolved the first time?  What percentage of those calls could be answered  more effectively without the phone? How do you answer a call without a phone?  By having the caller get what they need from some form of social media site.

Imagine that in less than a few months you redesign part of your web site and you develop several YouTube presentations to explain your bills better than any single person could explain it on the phone.  You could provide a similar service for patients who need help contacting their insurance company, and need help filing a claim.  The ROI on social media is significant, and it’s nicer than sending a fax.

Well, that’s it for the moment. I’m off to the store. I think I’m going to buy a third dog.

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