Some people think of Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels only as ways to keep in touch with friends (and a few celebrities, too). But they can be much more than that if we look at them as tools for improving the way we serve our customers. And for Hopkins Medicine, they are very powerful tools.

For us, social media isn't a one-way medium—it’s an extension of customer service. Facebook and Twitter offer touch points that weren't available over a decade ago, and we see them as a key way to meet our organizational goals that align with our strategic priorities around patient-family centered care and education.

Our social media channels represent the first contact for many people in their journey with Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Connecting the People of the World with the People of Johns Hopkins Medicine

Drawing Social Network

Image courtesy of Denphumi/iStock/Thinkstock

We hear from a lot of people who have a medical condition and are looking for advice or want to know how to see one of our doctors. We often point these patients and potential patients to content on our website or show them where they can make an appointment. In other cases, we help students looking for information about how to apply for a fellowship or a residency at the School of Medicine find the right information on the appropriate site.

It’s easy for us to forget how complicated Hopkins Medicine can seem to a person who isn’t familiar with our organization. Social media can help simplify communication. We can point them exactly to the resource they need. This can be especially useful for the increasing number of international contacts we’re making through social media.

In a small number of cases, we field concerns and complaints about Hopkins Medicine. When that happens, we follow social media best practices—whether in health care or retail—and take the conversation offline to find a quick resolution. We are very sensitive to our HIPAA obligations, and more than that, the delicate nature of some of these discussions.

Whether we are answering a question or addressing a complaint, our goal is the same: be responsive. And when we can’t help people directly, we triage those issues to the best representative in the organization—just as it would happen if the person had called instead of reached out through social media.

In this way we are using social media to achieve our strategic priorities. Our social media strategy ties into the patient- and family-centered care priority when we help patients connect with the institution. We make the experience easier and more convenient for them. We're showing them that we care about their journey here.

We also connect with many prospective students to help them through the process of applying to the School of Medicine, thereby allowing us to meet our strategic priority around education—helping to bring the best and the brightest to the School of Medicine.

Social media as a customer service tool is growing for us—we have twice as many contacts now as we did a year ago—and you can expect it to be an increasingly important component of the experience with Hopkins Medicine.

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