At a Thursday morning SIIM roundtable discussion, two physicians shared their success stories in establishing five social media presences — these endeavors not only created positive organizational exposure for the facility but they said it also helped patients far beyond what is possible with face-to-face interaction.
“We launched our Twitter account right before the 2012 RSNA conference and received close to two million impressions,” said Dr. Alexander Towbin, a radiologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC) and associate chief of radiology informatics. “The biggest room at the RSNA conference holds 3,000 people, we reached far more people on Twitter than possible in a meeting room.”
In addition to that Twitter account, Towbin, along with Dr. Saad A. Ranginwala, radiology resident at CCHMC, shared their experiences in setting up Facebook; a blog; Instagram; and Figure 1
Clearing the initiatives with the hospital’s legal and marketing departments, they said, was imperative — particularly with Figure 1, which enables the sharing of medical images.
“It took us a couple of months to get through the legal team, which wanted to be sure we protected patient identity,” said Towbin. In the end, they treat case files shared on Figure 1 with the same consideration they do when sharing case studies in medical literature; general enough that it cannot be traced back to a patient.
The two spoke of other lessons learned, which included:
- As the number of administrators increases for sites, make sure good user protocols are in place. “You don’t want any public failures in use,” cautioned Towbin. He said this can happen is an account gets hacked or a user forgets to switch back and forth between the organization’s Twitter account and the their personal account.
- Borrow from sites you like. Some of their most popular posts have been holiday-themed, with a game that allowed kids to use a slider bar to switch back and forth between popular candies and x-ray images of the candy. They got the idea for the slider feature from another site they liked.
- Cross-link Facebook and other posts to also appear on Twitter, to easily increase the number of posts.
- Use scheduling apps to allow multiple posts to be spread out, even while on vacation.
- Don’t be self-serving on social media, but rather be relevant.
“I think it’s unrealistic to expect that someone from California is going to come to Cincinnati for an MR because of something they read on our blog — that’s not the purpose,” Towbin said. Although anecdotally, Ranginwala said they have received feedback from some patients who said they chose the hospital because of its social media presence.
According to Towbin, interest internally in writing on their blog site — which he said is the hardest platform to do well — increased as the site became more and more known and traffic increased. In addition to the radiologists who were assigned to write blog articles, imaging fellows are now also contributing. The hospital has a volunteer copy editor who assists.
Towbin said that he instructs department employees not to spend more than two hours a week involved with their social media sites.
As a children’s hospital they are also mindful of a younger audience that is especially social media savvy. When Towbin discovered that his 11-year-old son was writing computer programs, he enlisted him to create games for pediatric patients using the site.
The games, Towbin said, have been a big hit.