Social Media Breakfast Madison
Computer screem SMB Madison Image by Bob Wydra copyright all rights reserved

photo provided by Bob Wydra copyright all rights reserved

This month’s Social Media Breakfast Madison included four panelists representing four hospital and health systems who shared their experiences in initiating and managing social media tools as part of their marketing-communications mixes and business best practices. The discussion centered around communication, awareness, responsiveness, and buy in.


Trish Skram (Mercy Health), Steve Van Dinter (SSM Health Care), Bridget Thomas (Fort Health Care) and Jennifer Walker (UW Health) shared the podium. Our recap post is also a panel of volunteer bloggers from the audience who shared their takeaways.


Social Media and the Health Care 2.0 Movement -Panel Program

Rena Ripp, Hummingbird Social Media

A certified social media strategist (Social Media Academy, Palo Alto), you can find Rena’s social presence at  Her goal is educating consumers and businesses on social media, specializing in the aging population with seminars and 1 on 1 interaction, in facilities or their home,  to keep them connected to family and friends.  

Steve, Jennifer, Trish and Bridget started in the Social Media world in different stages. A couple used Facebook, one used Twitter, and one had little to no presence when she started. Since then they have all learned the ins and outs.

I found the most interesting portion of the meeting and the part that kept coming back over again was you need to be communicative and responsive to your customers.

The team explained how they each handled a few unhappy customers. How great is it when you have a patient sitting in the waiting room tweeting about how long they have been waiting to see a doctor and an employee appears to discuss with them their concern? This would not happen without constant monitoring of their respective social media platforms.

How cool to have an ongoing surgery and a person within the OR is Tweeting about the steps. Or the hospital has a Facebook page for new babies and with the consent of the parents, the pictures are posted on line. On your pages your customers or patients are happy, so when the 10% complain, the other 90% will handle the complaint by responding with their positive experience.

In my opinion the health care industry is one of the hardest to break ground with social media due to the concern with HIPPA laws. They each brought up the “the Godfather of Health Care Social Media”, Lee Aase from the Mayo Clinic, as the person that broke the ground for health care to be on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.


Christine Schmieden, UW Health

Christine is the Surgery marketing and outreach coordinator at UW Health. She can be found on LinkedIn.

For all things social media, do your homework, benchmark and continue to be involved with groups like SMBMAD to network and share best practices. 

When it comes to Health Care and social media, Mayo Clinic is cutting-edge. Other resources that extend beyond are Mashable and PR Wire – equally chock full of helpful information like upcoming/new updates and releases, or social media best practices.

With regard to Health Care, develop your strategy, but always keep patient privacy at the forefront of everything you do in social media. If you are unsure of how to start, or what information you can share, visit HIPPA, the governing body and patient privacy advocate.

Allow discussion and measure your ROI by folks that comment and engage, not by the number of followers you have. These conversations take place regardless of social media – Facebook, Twitter, etc. just provide another forum.

Allow your employees access. They can also be your strongest advocate, as well as your biggest fan base. 

When managing unhappy customers, address the issue immediately and offline just as any other business would. Your loyal fans will also help take care of you.

Consider a social media management tool like HootSuite, SproutSocial or Shoutlet to help manage your multiple accounts. 

Also, integrate social media into traditional marketing. Utilize video, QR codes and track your ROI. QR codes are most effective when they offer value and not just go to website.

Mobile is future for social media – not everyone is online but we almost all have cell phones. Videos, contests and integrated marketing plans have all proven successful. Finally, in Health Care, building your fan base happens rather organically. People will find you.


Lauren Cnare, Wisconsin Primary Health Care Association

Lauren Cnare is a writer by training and a marketer by trade. She has 25 years of experience in health care marketing from hospital media relations to pharmaceutical development to architecture sales. Today she works for the Wisconsin Primary Health Care Association where she uses traditional and social media tools to advocate for and promote Wisconsin’s 17 Community Health Centers who provide access to care for underserved populations.

Getting started

>Convince administrators that more and more patients are on-line and social media is one more tool in the communications mix, and most effective at developing the conversation that builds the relationship between the institution and providers, and patients.


>Develop a cross-functional team – there are people throughout the organization that can add insight and develop unique uses for social media.

>Promote that it not only helps with patient engagement, it also helps the news media track for story ideas.

Like any shiny new toy that every other kid gets, (remember the advent of Yellow and Web pages?), marketers will hear: “I want a Facebook page for my department, too! Can you make me one?”


Assess how these individual pages complement the whole plan. Is the service line/individual/department up to participating frequently and is there an opportunity to increase patient engagement and connection.

>Let people practice by contributing to the main site, identifying missed opportunities and helping outline a prospective campaign

>Consider who will be responsible for activity (posting and de-posting) as well as reacting to requests from patients, from complaints to questions.

>Like a moribund patient, an inactive Facebook page or Twitter account should be treated!


Health care lives and dies on policies and procedures – what about a Social Media Policy?

>As you develop a policy, consider what your current policies cover, especially with regard to patient privacy. All panelists referenced the “Elevator Policy” that precludes talking about patients in any form that might compromise their privacy – from conversation to e-mail. Can your SM Policy simply be added as a reference?

>Or, construct one that addresses patient discussion as well as work situations (co-workers, management decisions, etc.

>If employees are commenting on their own Facebook pages about patients or workplace topics in a negative way, and you WILL hear about it, have a private conversation to resolve the issue. More often than not, employees will voluntarily delete the comment and recognize the reason to do so.

>Since SM is a two-way street, you will need policies that address activities from people who are not under your “control” as employees are. While you want to hear the bad, along with the good, you don’t want inappropriate, false or ugly things on your pages or account. Writing blogging and commenting guidelines, posting disclaimers, as well as “removal” policies, and sharing them with all audiences – internal and external – will guide interaction and allow you to remove items that require such action.


Kristin Johnson, Profession Direction LLC

Kristin is a five-times certified career writer, job search coach, and social media consultant with an approach that is cutting-edge, creative and kind. She owns Profession Direction, LLC and works with job seekers across the country. Her clients enjoy the reassurance of having professionally-written documents, finding clarity and direction in their job search, feeling at ease with networking, and earning more income faster.

One event I commit to each month is Social Media Breakfast Madison (SMBMAD). As a solopreneur, I choose community networking events to attend very carefully. SMBMAD is worth my time, because I always take something away that adds to my social media (SM) expertise.

This month, one concept discussed was the importance of having followers engaged and supporting a company’s brand before a negative event necessitates their loyalty. For example, many companies depend on their satisfied customers to defend them if a complaint is posted publicly. Having a base built prior to an incident is essential.

The job seekers I work with are no different.  They need a network to come to their aid when making a career change. Building that network via SM, before a crisis, helps. Consider the recent Social Job Survey 2011 by, a national recruiting website. It found that job seekers with many SM contacts were more likely to find a job or be found by a recruiter than people who had fewer contacts.

Being proactive can be a career saver. The panelists at SMBMAD concurred that having positive, interactive relationships using SM helps a company recover from negative feedback and promotes the brand of the organization. This concept applies to jobseekers as well; the more advocates they have, the easier it is to make headway in a job search. They can develop those relationships using SM, just like companies do.

Strong relationships with followers, friends and contacts who are there to lend a helping hand can bolster job hunting success.  One great way to build that network is to attend SMBMAD meetings. Doing so helped me to build my SM knowledge, increased my following, and has given me a chance to actually meet my network. Just what is needed to improve a career!


Elizabeth Churchill, Elizabeth A Churchill Consulting, LLC

A sustainability strategist with an insatiable appetite to help others make the change they want to see in the world. A systems thinker, always learning from nature.

Wendy did reach out to the participants inviting any and all to volunteer to host a 100-person event or be a sponsor of a future social media breakfast event. Sponsoring allows you and your company to be showcased and the opportunity to drive social media traffic your way.

Tweet Deck and Hoot Suite were both mentioned as social media organizing platforms. Both are very effective platforms for managing social media and maintaining active social media participation.

A couple of key takeaways I received from the panelists:

1)     All panelist function within the marketing department of the organization and go by the title of webteam, information architect, social media specialist.

2)     The majority of the organizations represented, Mercy Hospital, St. Mary’s SSM, UW Health and Fort Health Care, began engaging in social media for their organization before their organization was motivated that way or before they were given direction on where to take social media. This first came in the form of a Facebook page but then expanded into a Twitter account used to announce events held at the organization. Then a blog followed and now it is a full time social media management of the interface between these tools and their patients and families.

3)     Everyone needs to start by drafting a social media policy. For healthcare it involves a direct reference to HIPAA (patient privacy act) with regards to do’s and don’ts, just emphasized through a different communication medium. It is critical to draft this policy, sign off on it by all staff and administration and then refer to it for accountability and enforcement. Same basic policy as no elevator discussions regarding patients allowed. No baby photos are tweeted unless full consignment by parents.

4)     Social media is a key part of these organizations’ patient and family care policy and all patient and family comments are attended to. A negative comment is commonly used as an opportunity to turn it into a positive experience by allowing the patient to be heard.  Buy in has never been an issue. Managing the platforms is the main role of the specialists.

5)     One very effective example of the use of social media to drive traffic and clients to the healthcare organization was Mercy Hospitals’ live tweeting and video of a surgery being performed with DaVinci technology. New patients, seeking this same procedure, came to the hospital as a result of this.

6)     At this time none of the panelists were aware of the social media tools and platforms were being leveraged internally by staff to knowledge share and/or collaborate on clinical and medical best practices, research, etc. A definite opportunity.

7)     All are working towards a more rigorous way to define success than just the metrics built into the tools such as Facebook, Tweet counts etc. Everyone is trying to capture “sentiment reports” or actual narrative/commentary of client users of social media platforms provided. Some have hired 3rd party consultants to do this for them such as Shoutlet.