Sunnybrook shines in its use of Twitter and other social media
May 2, 2016
TORONTO – Sunnybrook Hospital now has the most watched YouTube channel of any hospital in Canada, says Sivan Keren Young, the medical centre’s chief of web and social media. She added, “We couldn’t say that when we first started,” as the organization had to learn how to use social media effectively.
Keren Young spoke at the recent Mobile Health Summit, a two-day conference that was organized by the Strategy Institute.
Take a look at Sunnybrook Hospital’s YouTube channel and you see a broad array of polished videos, and they’re refreshed regularly with new ones offering tips to patients and the community, as well as news about the hospital’s medical triumphs and research breakthroughs.
A two-minute video about exercise for babies, for example, has garnered over 665,000 views. One on the hospital’s recent breaking of the blood-brain barrier has elicited over 43,000 views.
Meanwhile, Sunnybrook’s Twitter feed has a whopping 29,000 followers. People are cottoning on to the hospital’s menu of health tips and cutting-edge news.
Keren Young says it took a while to learn how to use social media effectively. “Six years ago, Sunnybrook was likely to tweet out a press release. But that’s boring. Nobody wants to read that.”
Now, the tweets have punchy headlines and colourful photos. And through trial and error, and by carefully monitoring reactions and comments, Sivan and her team have a good idea of what patients and the public want to read.
“What are people interested in? You’ve got to listen first. See what the conversation is about, and then add value.
“When you do have something important to say, people will listen.”
And they’ll watch you on their computer screens and smartphones. That was certainly the case when Sunnybrook live-tweeted a heart surgery. “It got immediate attention, as it was the first time anyone had done this,” she said.
“It led to an increase of 5,500 Twitter followers in three days.” The hospital repeated the exercise with a live cancer surgery.
It’s important to respond quickly to comments, too. This kind of interactivity with patients and the community will foster a closer relationship. Look on the hospital’s Twitter site and you’ll see the social media staff responding to questions with polite and helpful comments and suggestions.
Sunnybrook has learned how to become more effective, as a hospital, through its use of social media. It recently conducted a patient care survey through Twitter as a way of finding out what patients like and dislike.
For example, when phoning patients, Sunnybrook used to have “unknown name” show on the phone’s ID screen, as a way of maintaining privacy. However, many patients were ignoring the calls, as they didn’t know who was calling and didn’t want to be bothered. As a result, they were missing appointments and care instructions.
When asked whether they’d prefer the ID to read “Sunnybrook Hospital”, over 85 percent of the Twitter users who participated in the survey said yes. As a result, the hospital changed its phone ID – presumably leading to higher patient satisfaction and better care.
Accomplishing all this, however, took time, effort and an investment. Keren Young joked that many people think because you’re using the web, it’s all free. “It’s not,” she asserted. “Your investment in people is large. And it has to tie into your corporate strategy. Nobody would say that’s free.”