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Customer Experience and Design

Connected Health Communities – Part 1

Facebook. Twitter. Ning. Blogging. MySpace. PHR. LinkedIn. Patient Portals. Web Enabled. Yahoo! Health. CaringBridge


What are healthcare organizations to do? Online communication and interaction has grown significantly in the last 5 years. Our patients are expecting us to communicate and build relationships in the same way they associate with other businesses. Facebook was started in February 2004 in a Harvard dorm room and reached 1 million active users by the end of that year. In February 2010 Facebook reached 400 million active users!! Twitter was created in March of 2006, and gained major popularity in 2007 at the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW). During the event, usage went from 20,000 tweets per day to 60,000. Since January 1st , 2010 4 billion tweets have been posted. Amazing to think about when all you can do is send a 140 character message!!

The exponential growth is coupled with change. Companies with funny sounding names like Escobo, Foursquare, Lulu to name a few, are starting up everyday. Who would have ever thought that Facebook, would take out Google as the most visited site? Hitwise Research Director, Heather Dougherty, shared in an official blog post the fact that while Facebook recorded 7.07% of all web traffic for the week up to March 13, Google slipped below recording 7.03% of entire traffic share and Facebook has shown a 185% year-on-year rise in web traffic.

Growth and change in the online world will continue. The question is how to engage with these relationship-building tools efficiently and effectively. We don’t want to be chasing every new shiny object. The key, we believe, is to anchor specific online relationship-building tools to the business and clinical objectives. The tools and channels available will constantly be evolving, but the organizations’ goals will remain relatively constant.

The healthcare organizations we work with have already incorporated these and other relationship-building tools into their ongoing initiatives. We have seen that broad internal support and involvement is required. Many individuals within most departments will need to be informed, trained and then measured on their use of these tools. These organizations are now reviewing and revising roles, modifying workflow, and adding incentives for the departments to adopt these new tools.

Three key points:

  • Growth and change are here to stay – how do we engage?
  • New online relationship tools should be included in tactics to achieve current business and clinical objectives
  • Broad awareness and participation are critical – many in our organizations will be involved

Please let us know what you think on the issue. What are the best tools and programs you’ve discovered that could lead to improved relationships between communities and healthcare systems and/or physicians and patients?

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Steve Evans

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