Many companies—including health care providers—have been reluctant to enter the social media sphere. But because of our commitment to transparency and serving as a national influencer, CHRISTUS has participated in social media for almost three years, utilizing a variety of sites to educate and engage our Associates and various publics.
In addition, CHRISTUS’ Futures Task Force II identified three critical drivers of the future: consumer empowerment, globalization and new advances in technology. Social media encompasses all three.
Social media includes any participatory online media where information, news, photos, videos, podcasts, groups and conversations are made public, and are often designed to encourage sharing and networking. It is important because it represents a fundamental shift in the way we communicate—organizations can no longer depend on one-way communication; consumers now expect to interact with brands and organizations in real-time, and can use the technology they already own (namely mobile devices like cell phones) and free tools to share their ideas and opinions with their social networks and the world. Consider:
Communities are being formed online in new ways, and are even being created for patients who share the same disease or chronic condition. Consumers are increasingly comfortable searching for health information online and sharing this with their health care providers. It is clear that we no longer search for the news; it finds us. Word of mouth has become world of mouth.
Therefore, it is imperative that CHRISTUS Health be engaged in building our brand and relationships online through new social media channels as well as traditional media. To this end, the CHRISTUS brand is represented extensively online, including:
• My blog
• CaringBridge – A program developed for patients to build their own free, secure websites for social networking.
To assist us as we move forward to harness the power of social media tools, we have also developed a proactive strategy for social media, which is designed to serve as a roadmap, directing our interactions online, aggregating our ideas and ensuring that all our efforts in this arena are guided by a measurable, larger strategy.
We also want to ensure that we help our Associates navigate the social media sphere, and have held numerous training and educational sessions and created two additional tools to direct social media efforts and provide guidelines for our Associates as they go about their activities online. The first is a policy that ensures that all communications are consistent and in keeping with our mission, vision and strategic communications plan, but a year ago was widened in scope to include social media sites. The directive clearly states that communication on these sites cannot be done on behalf of CHRISTUS or any CHRISTUS facility without approval of system or regional Marketing/Communication departments.
To assist CHRISTUS Associates who would like to speak about CHRISTUS online on their personal time, representing themselves solely as their personal representatives, Social Media Participation Guidelines were also created to help them understand how CHRISTUS policies apply to these newer technologies for communication so they can participate with confidence in all social media platforms.
CHRISTUS Health is a leader in utilizing these tools in the health care industry, all of which will help drive our five strategic directions.