Social Media & Healthcare: Q&A with MD Anderson

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As social media moves into more regulated industries such as healthcare, it is refreshing to see a leader in healthcare industry adopting early and successfully. Healthcare is moving and evolving; the two-­‐way relationship between caregivers and patients is alive and well in the social space. In this Q&A interview, Amy Howell discusses social media strategy and practices in the healthcare field with Lucy Richardson & Jennifer Texada of MD Anderson Cancer Center, one of the world’s leading cancer centers.


MD Anderson began in 2006 with YouTube, on the recommendation of an agency regarding SEO back when Google was about to index YouTube listings. A few months later, MD Anderson staff noted Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic using social media in interesting ways. MD Anderson then launched Twitter and Facebook in March of 2007 and has been going strong ever since.

“We went from SEO to meeting patients and family members where they were,” Texada recalls. “One of the initial things we realized is that when patients get cancer diagnosis, the first thing they do is they get online and search. Being MD Anderson, we needed to be everywhere to meet patients where they were with quality, accurate information.”


How did you overcome legal?


“It wasn’t easy. When we established the YouTube channel, we had to beg our IT division to unblock,” Texada remembers. “We had to explain that we were posting content for patients about treatment, care and conditions and that we needed to see what the patients were talking about.


If our teams couldn’t see it, we couldn’t help.”
The MD Anderson IT division had not blocked Facebook and Twitter, so able to access the sites, the communications team was able to begin education efforts and get a policy in place.


“We were so early and successful that we didn’t have the legal and management argument,” said Texada. “Policy is really strict and understanding HIPAA is vital; we err on side of caution and are very conservative. When interviewing a patient, you must have all the forms signed and prepared prior to posting any content.” Over the years, regulated industries have learned that being conservative is key to successful campaigns and strategies.


What are your uses for Social?


Engagement, customer service, simple questions—people expect a certain level of service. One of most important uses of a website is as a hub for content. Then, use social media to direct traffic to the content on your website.

“If an airline can get on Twitter and use it for corporate social responsibility (CSR), a hospital system can too. We think that it is a must,” said Richardson.


“The connections we have made through Twitter have been amazing for us. We have been able to enhance our program through real contacts and bonds made with other healthcare professionals and have expanded our reach worldwide.”


Over the past 70 years, MD Anderson has expanded regionally and partnered with hospitals all over the world, so the ability to have a global communications reach is crucial.



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