Social Media Policy for Healthcare Institutions

I had a great opportunity to share the stage last week with Dr. Leonard Achan Jr. at a conference in the Philippine General Hospital. In my last post, I talked about the great opportunity to harness social media in healthcare. Now let me share what I learned about social media policy from Dr. Achan, the Vice President of Digital & Social Media and Executive Services at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

  1. The hospital (or the medical school) must create a Center for Digital and Social Media who will enforce a social media policy.
  2. The social media policy will be two-prong: internal policy for hospital employees/faculty/trainees and external policy for patients.  A social media policy is necessary to help avoid risky behavior. Dr. Achan says that unless the institution embraces social media and puts a policy in place, the employees/faculty/trainees will use it outside the institution and beyond the reach of authority where it can get out of hand. He believes that a social media policy will reap the 99% benefit and manage the 1% risk.
  3. With an internal social media policy, it becomes possible for hospital personnel who maintain blogs/fanpages to have these reviewed by the Center for Digital & Social Media. As a matter of policy, these blogs/fanpages will have standard disclaimer & disclosure statements and will be required to link back to the main hospital website.
  4. The external social media policy for patients is to inform them about the rules of engagement – what constitutes proper behavior and what can they expect from the interaction.

These things in particular, struck me about Dr. Achan’s talk. First, because in the hospital we have no social media policy in place and second, because he recommends crafting a social media policy rather than outlawing social media when problems arise – a knee jerk reaction by administration. The last item about defining the rules of engagement with patients is sorely needed, especially since of late, I’ve been receiving more friend requests from patients or relatives of patients (which I decline :().

I took a look at the Mount Sinai Medical Center Social Media guideline which cites ten best practices:

Take responsibility and use good judgment.

Think before you post.

Protect patient privacy.

Protect your own privacy.

Respect work commitments.

Identify yourself.

Use a disclaimer.

Respect copyright and fair use laws.

Protect proprietary information.

Seek expert guidance.


Think before you post! That for me is the most valuable advice. Much of the risky behavior I have seen on Facebook has been related to venting anger or frustration within the workplace. That is why I agree completely with Ang Tod who shared this picture on Facebook.

If you have a problem, face it. Don’t facebook it!

Facebook problem





A social media policy need not be complicated. It can really be that simple! 🙂


Social Media & Healthcare: An Opportunity in the Philippines

Social MediaThe Department of Medicine of the Philippine General Hospital hosted the Symposium on Healthcare Improvement Strategies in the New Millennium: Mobile Health Applications and the Digital Media last October 21 at the Science Hall. The Department Chair, Dr. Agnes Mejia asked me to give a short presentation to preface the lecture of Dr. Leonard Achan, Jr on social media and healthcare.  Dr. Achan is currently the Vice President of Digital and Social Media and Executive Services at Mount Sinai Medical Center. More of his talk in my next post …

I began my presentation by showing an infographic (Social@Ogilvy) of Facebook users by continent. Did you know that with 139 million users, Asia is the 5th largest nation on Facebook? The Philippines was ranked 5th globally earlier this year though we sank to No. 8 this October. That’s still a formidable 26,721,920 Filipinos on Facebook according to socialbakers.com. Well, that was last week. As of today there are now 26,752,000 Filipinos on Facebook! Despite being ranked 8th, the Philippines is still the Social Networking Capital of the World! And that’s because socialbakers.com estimates that 90% of our online population are Facebook users.  That’s an amazing 27% of our total population – one of every four! And according to OnlineMarketingTrends.com, Filipinos are loyal Facebook users averaging 26 visits per month and logging in 6.2 hours per visit.

NewMedia.com estimates that there are 4,016,345 Filipinos on Twitter as well! These data only shows that an incredible opportunity exists locally, to harness the power of social media i.e. Facebook and Twitter, for healthcare. Major private hospitals ( like The Medical City, Asian Hospital, Makati Medical Center & St. Luke’s Medical Center) are already on Facebook and Twitter advertising their services, and dishing out helpful nuggets of health information.

I’ve a little experience on using Facebook as a platform for patient education, as I put up the Hormone Hotspots fanpage earlier this year. Hormone Hotspots is a lay magazine published by quarterly by the Philippine Society of Endocrinology & Metabolism (PSEM). It contains health information for patients with endocrine problems e.g. diabetes, goiter, etc. The magazine is given to PSEM-affiliated endocrinologists who then give these out to patients at their clinics. Funding for the publication had run out this year so I asked the PSEM Board’s permission to post the magazine articles on a Facebook fanpage instead. We had only a hundred likes in the beginning – and most of them were our own PSEM members and not patients! I decided to try out Facebook ads. In a month, at the cost of only five cents a click, I managed to grow our readership by a thousand! I was happy with this but our Facebook ad statistics showed a click-through rate of only 0.1%.  That meant our ad was shown nearly two million times to get that one thousand likes. 🙁 I’m still learning how to target our ads better. 🙂 After all, no one mentions their interest in learning more about diabetes or goiter in their Facebook profiles! Or maybe, our ad was too boring:

Do you have diabetes or a goiter? Get reliable health information from the Philippine Society of Endocrinology & Metabolism.

The Hormone Hotspots fanpage is linked to the PSEM website where our readers can download a pdf of the magazine for free. Hopefully, when they visit the website they can also learn more about other PSEM activities.

The use of social media for healthcare is just in its infancy here in the Philippines. After all, none of the private hospitals I mentioned earlier in this post have more than 10,000 likes on Facebook or more than 600 followers on Twitter yet. But we can only expect the numbers to grow!