Recently, I was watching one of my favorite TV shows, Grey’s Anatomy, when a twist of public relations snuck itself in. First of all, for those who don’t watch Grey’s, it is a show about a group of surgical doctors, residents and interns that work at Seattle Grey’s hospital. In this particular episode, there is a scene where the chief resident is performing a surgery in the operating room. He looks up at his interns (who are watching the surgery) and sees a few are on their cell phones. He immediately yells at them that there is no texting allowed in the operating room. After a second, one hesitant intern responds “sir, we aren’t texting….Dr. Bailey [another doctor in the hospital] is performing a surgery and we are following her on Twitter.”
Twitter! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I have yet to hear a mention of any social media on Grey’s, so it spoke volumes that Twitter was being referenced. This use of Twitter by the doctors on Grey’s got me thinking about health communication, and I realized they are onto something. While I fully support hospitals using Twitter to help make relationships with the public, the idea of tweeting about patients at the hospital, and not the hospital itself, is a fantastic idea. By posting about patients, it does a few things that can be beneficial to your hospital and its reputation.
First, tweeting about patients puts a human face on your organization. Instead of people reading tweets about your hospital, they are following actual people. This makes followers care more because it creates more of an emotional connection with your tweets. People won’t likely have an emotional connection with “the biggest hospital rooms available” or “the biggest supply of antibiotics”; they will, however, with 6-year-old Lindsey who has to get a liver transplant or 13-year-old Alex with leukemia.
Secondly, tweeting about the patients creates a narrative. By posting updates throughout and after each surgery, it makes a story about the patient that people will want to follow. They will be more inclined to stay tuned if there is more to come, and each tweet will leave them wanting more.
Lastly, tweeting about patients instead of the hospital sends a message. It says,“we care about our patients more than we care about how our hospital looks.” It says that the patients come first. Instead of directly boasting about your hospital, it makes a bold statement about where your hospital’s priorities are. This could contribute to bringing more people to support your hospital, and this is ultimately the goal of using social media.
Upon some further investigation of this tweeting by Dr. Bailey, I found, for all you fellow Grey’s enthusiasts out there, that you can actually follow Dr. Bailey on Twitter through her account, @MirandaBaileyMD. So thank you, Grey’s Anatomy, for tweeting something different. Happy tweeting!
This is a scene from the show. It is not the direct one I referenced above, but it is another one where the chief tries to learn the ropes on Twitter.
**Update** I wanted to address some concerns that recently came up in regard to HIPAA privacy rules. This rule applies to all forms of individuals’ protected health information, whether it is electronic, written, or oral. If hospitals were to tweet about their patients, they would need to first get written consent from the patients undergoing the operation.