Hospitals have been eager to let patients tell their health-related stories to the community for decades. Increasingly, they are moving beyond the occasional patient profile published online or in a newsletter to creating departments that behave more like a news organization than a health care provider.
With health care’s increased focus on population health, hospital executives have an even greater desire to create connections to the community, and it has become easier to do so through popular social media sites and apps. As a result, some hospitals and health systems are hiring full-time and freelance journalists to write stories and produce videos on health trends, news of the day and, of course, the hospital or system itself.
“We’re updating the site with two to three stories a day,” says Cheryl Welch, managing editor for one of the more ambitious efforts, Spectrum Health Beat, which is backed by Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Spectrum Health Beat, found at the Web address healthbeat.spectrumhealth.org, is fueled by a team of 10 freelancers contributing to the website on a regular basis.
The site features current headlines such as “Rx costs wallop wallets: When encountering 400 and 500 percent increases, patients must become more engaged in their care. Here’s how,” as well as the traditional human or canine interest angle. “Day in the life of Cain,” which is about a police dog that visits the hospital, received more than 1,400 “likes” on Facebook, a healthy number.
Likewise, Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, has received a positive response from publishing news stories on multiple social media outlets. “In this day and age, there are so many ways to get the word out,” says Donna Teach, chief marketing and communication officer for the hospital, which she says relies on more than 30 different social channels. Nationwide also publishes news on its 700 Children’s blog, found at 700childrens.nationwidechildrens.org.
Saint Thomas Health, based in Nashville, Tenn., is another system that has expanded its news reporting capabilities, and the system hired a former television news anchor to run the operation, coincidentally also called Health Beat, www.sthealthbeat.com. Two of Saint Thomas’ biggest outlets for viewership are the popular Facebook and YouTube sites, says Rebecca Climer, senior vice president and chief communications and marketing officer.
Climer says the video staff really function as a news team. “We can have a story posted within a day,” she says.