Social media and hospitals: Don't overlook the potential

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Social media and hospitals: Don’t overlook the potential 

After reading this article, you will be able to: 

  • Name ways social media sites are affecting healthcare
  • Discuss ways your organization could make use of social media
  • Identify which Joint Commission standards relate to social media
  • Describe resources now available for developing guidelines for use of social media in healthcare

Editor’s note: This feature explores problematic Joint Commission standards with expert advice from BOJ advisors. This month’s edition is written by Jodi Eisenberg, MHA, CPMSM, CPHQ, CSHA, program manager of accreditation and clinical compliance at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

The opinions expressed here are those of Eisenberg alone and do not reflect the views of her employer. 

In July, the Association for Healthcare Accreditation Professionals (AHAP) established a Facebook page for its members. Interestingly enough, several of AHAP’s listserv members responded by advising that their organizations not allow participation on Facebook.  

After doing some research, it is clear that this is an area within healthcare that has the potential for rapid growth, as well as strong resistance. Common reasons for not moving into the realm of social media include security, confidentiality, productivity, IT-related bandwidth issues, and more. However, it might be beneficial to start thinking beyond the barriers.

Did you know that there are more than 550 health systems/hospitals with 1,090 social media listings? This includes 254 YouTube channels, 336 Facebook pages, 430 Twitter accounts, and 70 blogs. Considering the fact that there are over 175,000,000 Facebook users—a number that changes minute by minute—the statistics quoted are sure to be out of date sooner than this article is published.  

If you get the chance, take a look at a YouTube video titled “Social Media in Healthcare” ( produced in April 2009. It provides some interesting facts around the use of social media, by both healthcare organizations and patients, as a vehicle to distribute and obtain healthcare information. 

Also, if you haven’t seen “Socialnomics” (, be sure to check it out. The statistics representing the growth, direction, and connection that the Internet has achieved in its short history is amazing.  

Are there Joint Commission standards related to the use of social media? Yes: Information Management, Patient Rights, Leadership—the same standards that apply to traditional communication and information uses. Policy, standards, and security of information must be established.  

Even The Joint Commission has a strong presence in social media. It has YouTube videos describing its accreditation process and tracer methodology. There is a Joint Commission Facebook page and Twitter account as well. Recent highlights in one of its publications included an example of the use of Twitter during an emergency. When traditional forms of communication are unavailable, Twitter allows an organization to maintain contact and get important information out to staff and patients.  

As with any topic, you can find several resources on the Internet for developing guidelines for use of social media in healthcare. Some are better than others. Edward Bennet, a healthcare professional from University of Maryland Medical System, has created a personal blog and recommended social media resources for healthcare professionals ( Mayo Clinic recently announced the implementation of the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media (  

According to the website, the goal of the center will be to accelerate adoption of social media for health-related purposes, starting at Mayo and then within healthcare more broadly. The website has a wealth of information on development of social media policies.