Kathryn Peck shared how she and her team help OHSU’s physicians navigate social media

Kathryn Peck, Associate Director of Social Media at Oregon Health & Science University, and her team have taken on the challenge of guiding the hospital's physicians through social media and setting them up for success.

According to Kathryn, identifying which OHSU physicians were already on social media was an easy win.

We’re seeing social media play a larger role in health care. Kathryn Peck
“These days, most people have social media accounts well before they start a new job,” Kathryn said. “It's pretty normal for social media to be a part of their portfolio.”

Her team wanted to tap into that in an informal way. “We're identifying how many people who work here have accounts already,” she said. Some of the physicians tag the hospital in their posts, which simplifies the process.

The team typically doesn't offer advice regarding what physicians should post, but sometimes they reach out to individuals to share specific content.

Kathryn emphasized the type of content a physician generally shares — as well as how active they are — will dictate whether her team reaches out to them.

“If they're not talking about the work and research they do, we won't reach out,” she said. “Because their followers would be mostly family and friends — not colleagues and other people in the field.”

Kathryn explained that recently, an OHSU physician and a researcher testified at a hearing for a bill regarding vaccinations.

It feels good to have something in place that we can just send to people. Kathryn Peck
“OHSU supports the bill, and we have made a couple of statements on our news hub that make it clear that we believe that vaccines save lives,” she said. “So, we put together some messaging that could be shared in order to create consistency for OHSU employees who want to talk about this issue on social media.”

Then, they sent that messaging to physicians who the team knows are active on social media. Kathryn said they din't have to post anything, but if they chose to do so, it made sense for everyone to share the same message and hashtags in order to achieve that consistency. They also published the messaging on OHSU's intranet so any employee could share it.

When a physician wants to start an OHSU-branded account, the team is much more hands on.

“There's a difference between starting your own account for personal use and starting an account that represents your department, and therefore OHSU,” Kathryn said. “We make sure they know what the requirements are and how much work it actually takes.”

When a physician approaches her team about starting a new account for their department, Kathryn makes a point to remind them that if they choose to make a personal account instead, they can take it with them if and when they leave OHSU — but an institutional account will stay at OHSU and requires regular upkeep.

“There's an expectation on what they post and how often,” she said.

The team also lays out the resources they already have.

If you’re able to get leadership on board, the support will follow. Kathryn Peck
“We have a number of established accounts with strong followings,” Kathryn said. If the department only has a few messages or events to post, then her team can share that for them. This saves them from starting a new account that they may not have time to manage.

If the physician wants to move forward with a department account, the team provides the correct logo, guidelines, and requires they disclose the password so that they have access to the account should the person leave OHSU and fail to give the login info to anyone else.

Once a department creates their own account, it tends to draw in patients who think it's a customer service avenue, so Kathryn and her team also make a point to emphasize the importance of representing the OHSU brand properly.

When it comes to physicians without social media knowledge who want to join the platforms, Kathryn's team guides them through the process.

Some of them simply approach her team for insights on how social could benefit them and how they can make the most of their personal account.

“They want to make sure they're adhering to any guidelines or policies and sharing the right content,” Kathryn said.

According to Kathryn, for physicians who aren't on social but want to be, a conference is a great way to get them started. She and her team even created a specific document about how to tweet from a conference to help physicians understand what types of information are worth posting about.

They also have formalized documents covering how to make a Twitter account, the advantages of social media, and guidelines for department accounts.

A step-by-step document for physicians to set up their own Twitter accounts is often very useful, Kathryn explained. That document is generally accompanied by an article from the OSHU website about the benefits of Twitter for physicians.

These days, most people have social media accounts well before they start a new job. Kathryn Peck
For departments getting on social media, Kathryn's team provides documents with guidelines for the platforms and their functions — including how to use Facebook Groups and recommendations for admins.

“It feels good to have something in place that we can just send to people,” Kathryn said.

The documents are helpful resources, but they don't do the whole job.

“We don't want to send them too much information, so we typically meet with people one-on-one, too,” she said.

“We have a lot of in-person meetings so we can understand what people's goals are and what they're trying to accomplish with their social channels.”

Kathryn's team focuses most of their training and resources on Twitter, but they also encourage physicians — and all types of employees — to do takeovers on OHSU's Instagram page.

Twitter tends to be the most beneficial platform for physicians because it's the most conducive to sharing research and connecting with others in the field.

Be ready with your information on why social media is valuable. Share examples from other places that have done cool campaigns and how that benefited them. Kathryn Peck
But, Kathryn explained, employee takeovers on OHSU's Instagram Stories are a great way to create more casual engagement for the page. The team has had doctors, nurses, midwives, researchers, and students do takeovers to show the hospital's diversity and spotlight different types of employees.

“The person does not need to have social media experience,” she said. “We just frame it as ‘a day in the life.' They send us a bunch of content, and we're actually the ones who post it.”

The team also solicits questions from followers for the employee to answer.

Because the team is in control of posting of the content, they can vet each question before having the employee answer.

The team has accumulated a long list of employees who want to participate. “They get a kick out of seeing themselves and seeing the engagement,” she said. “And the Instagram page tends to receive an increase in followers during the takeover.”

Then, they save the takeovers as highlights on the page, so followers and employees can go back and revisit them.

Sometimes, conveying the value of social media internally can still be a challenge.

“There are definitely some people who don't see the value in it,” Kathryn said. “Sometimes we'll send doctors links to other physicians who are active on social media.” This way, they can show the direct impacts of social and encourage physicians to get on certain channels to engage with those people.

The team generally doesn't push physicians to get involved in social media if they don't show an interest in it. But, Kathryn explained, Instagram takeovers can be a great way to get them engaged in some capacity.

“We're not asking them to create a new account to maintain,” she said. “Since we do it all for them, it's just a fun way to get a little bit of insight into what they're up to. Both at OHSU and outside of work.”

For others who want to help their hospital's physicians make more of an impact on social, Kathryn emphasized the importance of getting a seat at the table.

“The person who had this job before worked hard to ensure that social was included in the right meetings and decision-making process, so I walked into a position at a place that valued social,” she said.

She added that you need to know who to talk to and how to get in on important meetings. “Be ready with your information on why social media is valuable. Share examples from other places that have done cool campaigns and how that benefited them.”

Kathryn explained while fighting for budget will always be a challenge, there are plenty of ways to show leadership the importance of social media. “If you're able to get leadership on board, the support will follow,” she said.

“We're seeing social media play a larger role in health care,” she said. “A lot of teams may not get that same respect or support, but we're definitely part of a team that values social and our stock is only increasing.”

Kathryn Peck has been a member of SocialMedia.org Health since 2016. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.