Social media tools give large organizations the ability to personify experiences that can sometimes seem deeply impersonal or confusing to people. Do you think elements like your YouTube channel (which explains procedures and processes) and your Flickr stream (which documents outreach work) help your clients feel safer and better informed?

Yes, social media helps our patients feel safer and better informed. Social media allows us to break down the perceptions and barriers that may exist and aids us in delivering our services directly to the user.

We have had viewers from all around the world view our videos and even schedule procedures based on our in-depth information. With our YouTube page, we feature videos from our Emery King Medical Video Library, which chronicle a number of various medical procedures done at our hospitals and tell the stories behind them in a  “fun but informative” way.

Who is your primary audience for this content: the wider medical community or patients of the hospital?

Our primary audience is both patients and medical practitioners. People are empowered to go online and research for themselves in today’s society. We want to provide the most accurate and trustworthy information possible so our patients and future patients can make informed decisions about their healthcare.

Medical practitioners use it as a teaching tool for other medical practitioners. Emery King does a wonderful job of describing and translating the video so that any and everybody can understand and enjoy the video.

You also use these new channels to reach out to hospital staff with handwashing videos and the like. How has the DMC’s staff responded? And how have you made an effort to get a variety of stakeholders (from orderlies to doctors) involved?

Our internal staff’s response to our YouTube videos has been great so far. We haven’t had a great deal of resistance from any group of people. The Handwashing Dance video went over very well. Employees loved to do it and were happy to see themselves, their fellow co-workers and even their bosses in a fun video.

Some of our recent videos include a wide variety of hospital staff, including the “Monday Morning Hustle,” which features the accounting department and their weekly exercise routine, and “Behind Sinai-Grace Today,” which was a special behind-the-scenes look at a weekly internal video broadcast that one of our hospitals puts together.

We’ve just started an “introduction class” that’s open to all employees to learn about the basics of social media. Our hope is that our employees will take a liking to our social media efforts and as a result become positive ambassadors for the great medical work being done here at the DMC.

Privacy is obviously a huge concern with hospitals. Have you had any pushback from administrators, doctors or patients on privacy grounds? How do you find a balance between transparency and privacy?

We follow HIPPA guidelines in regards to patient information. If we decide to follow a patient, doctor, or administrator’s story, we always make sure to get their full permission (through use of a publicity release form).

The DMC’s ER wait time tab on Facebook allows patrons to check ER wait times for each of the DMC’s facilities. What sort of effects have you seen it have on the ER?

Our ER volumes have definitely gone up since the multimedia launch of our ER wait time campaign. We of course don’t want a huge number of people getting injured and rushing into our ER, but since this is sadly the case we wanted to offer patients a way to check the wait time in our emergency rooms to reassure them that they won’t be waiting an ultra-long time in our hospitals.

We have a “29 Minute Guarantee” that we always try to stick to in getting people seen by a doctor as soon as possible. People have slowly been telling us that they appreciate the fact that we’re informing them about their wait times instead of finding out about it at the last minute once they’ve already arrived.

What kinds of results do you anticipate from these projects? How do you measure return on engagement?

Since social media is still relatively new for us, we don’t have a set standard on how to measure its effectiveness just yet. We always have a “call to action” on our various accounts and pages that leads viewers to our main DMC phone number or website.

We monitor and track our social media sites and can determine if viewers click directly to our website and even use it as a referral to see one of the DMC specialists.

An example of this would be when we covered a live surgery via Twitter. Our social media team was inside the operating room during a minimally invasive Birmingham hip replacement surgery and with permission from the patient, we covered the step-by-step procedure in real time, in an effort to educate potential patients and the medical community.

Two weeks later, we found out that someone who needed the same surgery saw our live coverage on Twitter and called DMC to make an appointment to get the surgery done.