Digital Hospital 500 institutions such as NorthShore University Health System are using social media as a tool to boost patient engagement and stand out in the rankings.

As a group, the Digital Hospital 500 has a big—and collective—presence on the major social media sites: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter and YouTube. 98.9%, or 494 hospitals ranked by Internet Health Management have a Facebook page, 488 hospitals, or 97.6%, are active on Twitter and another 459 organizations—91.8%—are live on LinkedIn.

But it’s how certain Digital Hospital 500 institutions such as NorthShore University Health System in Evanston, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, are using social media as a tool to boost patient engagement that make them stand out in the rankings.

At NorthShore social media is used as tool to reach patients on an ongoing basis, says assistant vice president, digital and target engagement Teddy Fishbein.

NorthShore, with four major hospitals in the Chicago area, was looking for a way to share quality content with its target market in an interactive and easily digestible way. NorthShore also wanted to build trust among consumers by allowing its current and future patients to interact with their physicians online. In order to create their social media strategy, NorthShore first conducted a competitive analysis of other hospitals’ social marketing efforts.

Two gaps that were identified as areas for opportunity included creating and promoting infographics via Facebook and live tweeting NorthShore’s online physician chats on Twitter. To maximize exposure and peak interest, the health system created an ongoing stream of infographics that aligned with national health-related observances and seasonal events.

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In the summertime, NorthShore created and shared content about summer safety topics such as proper sunscreen application and in the fall, created a “Back to School” guide. NorthShore also created infographics to spread awareness during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October and a holiday health and safety guide in December.

Aligning NorthShore’s infographics with seasonal themes allowed NorthShore to be a part of the conversation that was relevant and important to their audience, while building its brand, Fishbein says. To reach out ton social media to people who were not already a “fan” of NorthShore, the health system utilized Facebook’s promotional options to further increase the exposure of the infographics.

Each infographic had its own unique targeting strategy to increase relevance and frequency of engagement. NorthShore used Facebook’s Power Editor in order to deliver relevant messages to the most appropriate audience. For Twitter, Northshore focused on Twitter chats and used the hashtag #NSChats. NorthShore  also conducted ongoing and themed-based chats with various industry experts and NorthShore’s own physicians.

Discussions addressed a variety of healthcare-related topics relevant for patients, ranging from breast and prostate cancer chats to back pain and brain tumor chats. The campaigns clicked with consumers— and increased patient engagement, Fishbein says.

For example a breast cancer awareness infographic was liked 1,641 times and shared 218 times. The overall reach of the social campaign to date has generated 1.6 million impressions and has increased NorthShore’s followers on Facebook to 15,400. “We are now better engaging with patients in between visits,” Fishbein says.

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