When reviewing different aspects of their services, why not involve your customers in giving feedback - a recommended approach. With social media, there are more options in addition to the traditional face-to-face customer focus groups. One example is the use of the "virtual advisory council" by Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Children's Hospital in Delaware to provide advice on new patient procedures including appointments scheduling or simplifying patient information leaflets.
One interesting aspect of this communication by Nemours Children's hospital is that the recruitment for the advisory council is managed by public social media sources such as Twitter, with the actual feedback is managed by a private social network. There are other examples where healthcare organisations use solely public social media - for example, University of Michigan Health System's online engagement with their patients and families comprises up to 35 online surveys a year and the use of a Facebook page to enable a teen council respond to questions.
Given the busy lifestyles of patients and families, using social media makes a lot of sense - a 24/7 service that enables healthcare organisations to widen their net for feedback and comment.
The use of social media to engage directly with patients and families is one online option, but can we track what people are saying about a healthcare organisation in the social media sphere. That's what the 'Insights' - a beta service launched by the NHS - is seeking to achieve by tracking sentiment and online commentary about the NHS and its services. There is also a 'specific' page for Patients and staff which displays information on top complaints and the key customer service question - 'Would you recommend the NHS to others?
This service is planned to formally launch in November 2013 and in a paper to the NHS England board, Tim Kelsey listed the key objectives behind the service was to provide "...a never before seen view of experiences and views about the NHS from patients, the public and NHS staff..."
Some hospitals and medical practices are starting to put patient information online; either in a view-only mode or to enable patients update their records with any relevant comments. This may not be regarded as traditional social media, but it is an important feature in any online patient engagement.
One interesting case study in providing online medical information to patients involves Cleveland Clinic and their open medical records policy. For Cleveland Clinic, providing online medical record information to patients was part of a patient engagement strategy which started with services such as online scheduling and patient education.
Their open medical records policy started with providing lab test results to patients since October 2012 and evolving since then to include viewing and updating doctor's notes. Currently, there are a number of pilots enabling patients to update their records with reported outcomes after the completion of a treatment.
Measuring Patient Engagement
These three case studies show the evolution of online patient engagement and the role that social media services contribute to this engagement. As a measure of the evolution, healthcare organisations are now assessed on their online patient engagement.
One example of this is the Patient Engagement Index, which is part of the Meaningful Use assessment in the US as part of the roll-out of Electronic Health Records. Part of the Meaningful Use assessment includes assessing that more than half of patients receive 'timely' summaries of their clinician visits.
By including online patient information access in the assessments of healthcare organisations, it provides a tangible objective to achieve.
The above examples are just a sample of the progress being made with online medical information access, I would welcome hearing about other examples and online experiences.