Benefits of social media outweigh risks, says former hospital CEO

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Deanna Pogorelc

“There aren’t many dangers in using social media” in the healthcare business, aside from common-sense privacy measures that anyone in the industry should know, says Paul Levy in this interview with IHI Open School.

And if anyone should know, it’s Levy. He’s the former CEO and President of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center who during his tenure started a blog called Running a Hospital, in which he posted real-time clinical outcome data for the hospital in an effort to improve transparency and engage the community in important conversation.

Today the blog is called Not Running a Hospital, but it still gets about 10,000 visitors a day. As an early adopter of social media in his field, Levy has a few suggestions on how to get the most out of social media for your healthcare organization or business.

During his time as CEO, Levy used Facebook as a way to connect with others in his organization and to see what was going on in different parts of the hospital. Twitter, though, served a much different purpose.

“Twitter I found to be my librarian,” he says. “I would follow a few people who I know were well-read and thoughtful, and they would often cite articles from technical journals or from the newspapers about things going on in healthcare, and it basically meant that they were surveying the literature for me.”

Social media and blogs also provide a way for thought leaders to get their ideas out without having to wait months while going through a competitive screening process to have an article accepted and published in a peer-reviewed journal.

For healthcare leaders who are still wary about diving into the social media world, Levy recommends just trying it as an experiment. Write in your own voice – not one that’s overly clinical or professional – and post at least three times a week to keep people coming back.

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