Social media can be a great resource for people looking for information about their health. In fact, nearly a third of those surveyed by accounting firm PwC last year used social media for some medical purpose. As the popularity of social media for businesses has grown, healthcare professionals and care providers have joined patients online.

As with any industry, some brands are adapting to the new channels of communication better than others. Here are some of the hospitals that have made great strides in connecting with and educating patients through social media.

1. Mayo Clinic

The poster child for social media in the health care field has long been the Mayo Clinic. It was one of the first to offer an online resource for patients to look up information about symptoms and diseases, and it’s still leading the way in providing social media resources.

Not only is the Mayo Clinic a great example of a hospital that’s active on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, but it has taken extra steps to help both physicians and patients maximize how they use social media for their health. The care provider launched the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, a program aimed at improving the use of these networks as tools for better global health.

The Mayo Clinic also created the Social Media Health Network, a members-only group for organizations with a similar interest in the practical applications of these tools in healthcare. Members enjoy free or discounted access to the Center’s many events, conferences, and webinars about social media in the medical field. It also offers support for blogs and community sites. The Mayo Clinic’s readiness to look beyond its own walls and encourage good use of social media across the industry is a sign that we’ll be seeing more progress in how healthcare providers and patients interact.

2. Brigham and Women’s Hospital

One of the best examples of a hospital on Twitter is Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a well-known and respected hospital affiliated with the Harvard Medical School. The hospital has adopted a smart strategy that includes regularly sharing content and retweeting other accounts. Brigham and Women uses its reputation to help smaller medical programs and campaigns to get a wider audience. For example, it retweeted materials from Project HOPE to encourage medical volunteerism.

Brigham and Women’s own tweets also strike a good balance in terms of content. They have a mix between congratulatory posts about the hospital’s successes and awards, announcements of the hospital’s public services and events, and general news about medical discoveries. This approach keeps the hospital’s feed from looking like a series of advertisements and demonstrates the desire to be an active participant in both the local and global Internet communities.

3. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

The medical field relies heavily on word of mouth, so good customer service is critical. That’s doubly true when some of those customers may be facing life or death situations. Handling customer service problems on a social media network can be challenging, but the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has developed a great strategy for responding to those queries on Facebook.

The hospital’s customer service team responds promptly and politely to all the posts it receives, including those with angry, inflammatory language. By creating dialog with these people and providing them with additional contact information, it allows complaints to be resolved swiftly. Hospitals need to be particularly cautious with customer service concerns due to patient privacy regulations, and UPMC is very clear with its followers about the importance of obeying those rules.

In its other activity on Facebook, UPMC behaves very much like any other company. It shares good visual content — such as photos from a recent event with television health adviser Dr. Oz — along with videos promoting upcoming hospital events. Like with Brigham and Women’s, the hospital has made sure to mix in lots of content, including informal quizzes, aimed at improving the overall health literacy of its followers.

Do you know another hospital with a great social media strategy? Let us know in the comments!

[Image credits: George RuizTripp]