Connecting to patients via social media: A hype or a reality?

  • Huang E
  • Dunbar C
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Although healthcare professionals have done much to take advantage of social media for healthcare purposes, few empirical studies have investigated such practices. It is not known whether hospitals are using social media mainly as a marketing tool or as a way to friend, listen to, and interact with their visitors. Through a content analysis of 23,300 posts/tweets on 172 US hospitals' Facebook and Twitter pages in a systematic probability sample, this study found that the flow of information on hospital Facebook pages, and especially Twitter pages, is dominantly one-way; nevertheless, hospitals, especially larger hospitals, have made great effort to interact with their Facebook visitors while marketing themselves, though such interaction is minimal. The study also found that it is very important for hospitals to encourage a large visitor base on Facebook because the more visitors a hospital attracts to its Facebook page, the more 'Likes' and posts the hospital will attract, the more people will comment on the hospital posts, and the more the hospital will get recommended. The comparison between the traffic on Facebook and on Twitter demonstrates that using social media as a two-way communication channel seems to be much more effective for hospitals to connect to their visitors than using them as a one-way marketing tool. [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]

Author-supplied keywords

  • Communication
  • Healthcare
  • Hospitals
  • Information technology
  • Marketing
  • Social media

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  • Edgar Huang

  • Christina L. Dunbar

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