Hillary Clinton came through my little Upstate NY town in 1999 to kick off a “listening tour” on her senate campaign in which she handily defeated challenger Rick Lazio. She demonstrated the power of starting by listening.
Academic hospitals can channel the same power to broaden their reach, and teach.
The first step in launching a social media strategy, according to Hive Strategies, is to listen:
Listen to how patients are talking in the waiting rooms. Listen to the questions new moms in your birthing center are asking nurses. Go to the FAQ web pages created by your Centers to read what they feel are the issues of key concern to patients. Go sit next to the person who answers the hospital’s main phone line. What questions is he or she answering for patients? Listen to the voicemail introductions of each of your centers to give you insight into what the managers think their patients need to know? Listen to the conversations in Emergency Rooms. Listen to what your patients are saying on patient surveys, and listen to how the media talks about your hospital.
What if medical students were used to do this listening as an elective? They would gain exposure to the real needs of various stakeholders in healthcare. Reporting on their discoveries, they could research supporting evidence and share it using a social media tool like Yammer. All the students working on such a project could upload their findings and discuss them in a common, secure web document that could serve as an informative portfolio for the social media strategy.
Such a listening tour would offer students valuable insight into the realities of healthcare barriers and quality issues, as well as some exposure to the applications of social media both to share information and tackle these barriers to deliver better care. The hospital would get free “boots on the ground” for the fact-finding step as they reach to claim the mantle of "healthcare innovator." The college of medicine gets their students talking about issues and passing them along to the whole class, as well as incorporating social media into the curriculum. And, some day, patients get better care.