March 2, 2011

Member Profile: The National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems


Editor's Note: This is part of a series by and about members of the Social Media Health Network. To see the full list of current members, and for information on how your organization can join, visit the Network tab.

The question has been asked: why do we invest in social media and why should our members? Because health organizations do not exist in a vacuum; the conversations happening online right now – from the tragedy in Tucson to deficit reduction to immigration – all impact hospitals and continue with or without our voices. And we would be doing a disservice to ourselves and our communities if we did not take part.

The National Association of Public Hosptials and Health Systems (NAPH) represents the nation’s largest metropolitan hospitals and health systems that fulfill a safety net mission of providing care to low-income individuals. These facilities provide high-quality health services for all patients, including the un- and underinsured, regardless of ability to pay. They offer essential services, train health professionals, provide large volumes of primary and specialty care, and they are often the first receivers of emergency victims. For the last 30 years, we‘ve been helping our members continue to achieve this mission.

With a staff of roughly 30, we advocate at the federal level on issues concerning safety net hospitals, conduct research and share innovations among our members, and communicate the value of the safety net. To do this, we use a variety of tools including social media – which is why we are excited to be a part of this new collaborative network!

Our Safety Net Matters blog, launched in early 2010, is often in the top 10 most-visited pages on our site and features staff and guest experts. We use Twitter and Facebook to share new web content and stories from our members, as well as to participate in conversations. YouTube and Flickr help us convey key messages – be it by sharing stories about legislative events, patients or innovations. We also have a weekly health policy news podcast - This Week in Washington and are working to connect folks with similar interests on LinkedIn via an NAPH group.

As experts, we provide useful and accurate health information that benefits patients, the community, policymakers, journalists and others. Taking part in the ongoing online conversations can increase an organization’s credibility and builds community and goodwill.

It also can enhance the patient experience by promoting better health and relationships outside the hospital, prepare health professionals for managing and responding to emergencies, and engage and educate the larger community on public health issues.

Ultimately, social media is about found opportunities. We recognize its importance and reach. Though we mostly use it to monitor the pulse of what’s happening around DC, we also focus on providing accurate, trusted information where misinformation can be prevalent (like the #hcr discussions on Twitter). Our members, meanwhile, see SM as a local communications tool – for customer service, patient/employee education, PR and crisis communications. Learn about some of their successes here.

The challenge becomes rethinking organizational culture. Wouldn’t it be great if hospitals stopped blocking some social media so providers could more actively engage? We garnered some good discussion around a blog post on this topic – read the comments here. Mobile is already helping bypass these restrictions, so perhaps this network can help with strategies to address security and other issues related to enabling SM throughout the hospital. To quote one of our members, when it comes to social media, let’s “stop gate-keeping and start gate-jumping!”

Maya Linson is a Communications Specialist with NAPH

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