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Oklahoma Hospitals Use Social Media To Connect With Patients

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St. John Hospital is using Twitter to reach out to patients. St. John Hospital is using Twitter to reach out to patients.

Associated Press

TULSA, Ok -- In November, when Tulsa's St. John's Hospital received another stock of swine flu vaccines, one of the first places Cheena Pazzo, director of community relations, turned to get
the word out was Twitter.

Hospitals across the state are increasingly using Twitter and other social media outlets like Facebook to announce upcoming events, share the latest health news and get patient comments.

At least 10 hospitals in Oklahoma and more than 400 across the country use some form of social media, according to a personal/professional blog by Edward Bennett, hospital Web manager.  

"We found it's a great way to connect to our patients and the community," Pazzo said.

The hospital traditionally relied on its Web site for patient feedback, but with Twitter and Facebook, it's instantaneous, she said.

"So we can have conversations with people, both good and bad. We can quickly correct any negative experiences."  

Twitter, Pazzo said, is less experienced-based and more real time, a way to deliver information quickly to the public. Facebook and YouTube, on the other hand, are mediums where patients can share their experiences.

The sites also are a way to connect employees. Sarah Pate, marketing specialist at Oklahoma City's Bone and Joint Hospital at St. Anthony's, said Facebook grew into a hub for employees, so the content is geared more toward hospital workers. Recent posts include employment listings and a picture of hospital President Chad Aduddell carving a turkey for employees.

Twitter is more business-focused and geared toward the public, Pate said.

"We try to put out a lot of tweets about general health information," she said.
   Like St. John's, the Bone and Joint Hospital did not hire additional staff to run the sites and set them up this summer, although the idea has been on the minds of the public relations
department employees for a while.

"We spent some time trying to determine if it would be valid or relevant for our patient demographic," Pate said. "All you have to do is really dive in, and it's really not that hard."

Pazzo models St. John's sites after the sites run by the Mayo Clinic, which has an entire staff devoted to social media, she said.

But because most people are familiar with Twitter and Facebook, Pazzo said it's fairly easy for staff members to integrate it into their daily routine.

"It's a part of our job in communicating with the public," she said. That job includes one or two posts on Facebook per week and about one or two posts on Twitter each day.

Hospital employees aren't the only ones Twittering or Facebooking about the hospitals. 

Sarah Johnston, Web content specialist at Integris Hospital in Oklahoma City, said hospital officials noted people Twittering about the November grand opening of the Integris Cancer Institute of Oklahoma.

"They were writing on Twitter, 'Congratulations for Integris,"' said Johnston, who is taking on the job of posting information and is an avid Twitter and Facebook user herself.

"I think any way that somebody can get information, whether it be from the newspaper or Facebook or Twitter, any way it's useful," she said.

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