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Study Finds Healthcare Organizations Not Utilizing Social Media


A study in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery evaluating the use of social media among residency programs shows lack of adoption.

heathcare institution social media

If you walked into any residency program in the United States and asked the residents to raise their hand if they had a Facebook profile, almost every single personwould have one arm in the air.

While many adults have some form of an online presence, residency programs are not as quick to build and maintain an online presence. In a recent original investigation published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, investigators discovered that less than one-third of otolaryngology programs use social media.

Lead author Deborah X. Xie and collogues aimed to examine the popularity of social media specifically in otolaryngology residency programs in the United States.

The pool consisted of 101 otolaryngology residency programs and looked for their activity on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram. Of those programs only 30 (29.7%) returned profiles of any kind with Facebook and Twitter showing the highest return 25 (24.8%) and 14 (13.9%) respectively.

In relation to the popularity of social media platforms such as Facebook among adults, medical programs are far behind in their adoption of creating and maintaining professional profiles.

The search began by combing the institution’s landing page for outbound links to other profiles. Additionally, each of the 101 programs were searched on the native platforms for Facebook, Twitter, etc. Profiles not that were not directly supported by the department or were unverified were excluded.

Criteria for inclusion in the sample pool included the program’s inclusion on one of two factors — Doximity Residency Navigator reputation rankings and the US News & World Report (USNWR) reputation scores. Programs that fell into the top quarter of their ranking tended to not only have Facebook and Twitter accounts, but increased activity on both platforms.

Adults are turning to the internet as their first stop for answers, including medical information and advice. Up-and-coming classes of residents are likely to examine a program’s online presence when considering applying for their residency. Could a more active online presence help bolster the institution’s standing among the competition?

The discussion notes, “Based on this study, there is an opportunity to expand the social media presence of otolaryngology programs to enhance communication and outreach.”

With incoming students turning to accounts to judge an active account — do alumni stay in touch, what events or lectures does the department host, are there opportunities to remain engaged with others in the program currently – active accounts may provide a greater opportunity for increased reputation scores which take reviews into consideration.

The study notes that a similar study across urology programs saw that programs with more active social media accounts correlated with higherUSNWRrankings.

And social media is a two-way street.

The study notes the prevalence of an applicant’s social accounts saying, “Social media use has the potential to affect trainee hiring and experience. In a survey of 110 general surgery program directors, the respondents reported frequently viewing social media profiles of students and residents, and 11% of respondents reported lowering the rank of a resident applicant based on social media postings.”

This information applies not just to residency programs, but any practice hoping to connect with a new audience. If you are going to get into the social media game, be sure that you have a strategy. Know who your target audience is, what kind of information you want to provide them with, and how you will measure your success.

Our practice management section includes some tips on leveraging Twitter, LinkedIn, and handling media interviews to help bolster your practice’s online presence.

The study, “Evaluation of Social Media Presence of Otolaryngology Residency Programs in the United States,” was published online in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.

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