“In 2009, there was not a road map for how healthcare should use social media,” says Janelle Logan.
We’re opening a dialogue in an industry where patients and customers often feel frustrated.
She’s the Director of Community Engagement for Spectrum Health, the company she’s been with for nine years. And like many SocialMedia.org members who worked in the early days of social media, she says Spectrum Health was taking a reasonable shot in the dark.
“We knew what we wanted to accomplish, but we weren’t sure how to get there. We started with broadcasting messages to an audience that we hoped might be listening,” Janelle explains.
“Now, it’s much more of an ongoing dialogue with our customers, patients, families, volunteers, and people who want to work with us.”
Along the way, she’s earned plenty of experience in crisis communication.
“When we launched in 2009, we didn’t know what we didn’t know,” she says. But from there, they began to come across one crisis situation after another and slowly built up a process to manage each one.
Like any healthcare employee, Janelle has to navigate social media with strict health information privacy laws. She says her team relies on redirecting to get patients and customers to a safe place to talk without violating patient rights to privacy. For Janelle, that includes anything from someone having trouble with their bill to potentially life-threatening situations.
Operating within regulations can be a challenge — but in healthcare, social leaders can face even higher stakes.
You realize that in some cases, these people are truly dealing with life and death issues.
For example, when one patient expressed thoughts of suicide on Spectrum Health’s Facebook page, Janelle had to work quickly with their counterparts in patient relations to reach out to and make sure that person was safe.
“Once I had an experience like that, I went home that night from work really changed. You realize that in some cases, these people are truly dealing with life and death issues, so we’ve got to be prepared to handle those.”
“We’re opening a dialogue in an industry where patients and customers often feel frustrated.”
“They’re frustrated that they don’t have enough control of their healthcare, and that they’re not a participant in the conversation, and they desperately want that,” she says. “I know that because I’m a patient and consumer when I’m not an employee.”
That’s why Janelle is most proud of the times her team has helped bridge those gaps. It’s won them Ragan Health Care PR and Marketing Awards like Best Use of Social Media 2013 and Best Community Outreach 2014, as well as honors from Marketing Healthcare Today and West Michigan’s Public Relations Society of America.
“One of the things that has been pivotal in my own healthcare journey has been patient communities.”
Janelle says so far, they’ve just skimmed the surface on patient communities. But going forward, she’s looking to implement even more opportunities to make the patient experience seamless.
“You can create a community online with people of different geographies, socioeconomic statuses, ages, and demographics all united by a particular condition. Understanding that from the patient side has helped me understand how I want to make that safe place for our consumers to enter onto our properties.”