Healthcare Marketing & Social Media

06/19/2006

Nick_jacobs_1 Nick Jacobs, President and CEO of Windber Medical Center & Winder Research Institute is not a guy who runs from a challenge. In fact, he's the sort of divo who lives by the passion of his beliefs. Even when those beliefs run counter to the status quo. Like the first hospital admistrator to launch a blog. Not surprisingly his work in healthcare is perceived as innovative.

Last week Nick graciously "talked" to me about healthcare marketing and the inclusion of social media in the marketing mix.

Diva: There is a debate in the healthcare industry on the "word" to use for people who are in need of medical attention. Patient or Customer. At Windber Medical Center what do you call the people who come to you for care? How is that reflected in the way WMC's cares for and services those "people"?

Nick: We really don't get hung up on the semantics . . . I call them our family of patients because they are like our family, in the very best sense of the term. Our philosophy is to "follow the golden rule" of care . . . do unto others as you would have others do unto you," and that is the type of care that we insist upon. The employees who have been asked to leave during the past ten years have been dismissed due to their inability to grasp this concept.

Diva: You are an innovator when it comes to incorporating social media/blogs in your communications strategy at WMC. How does that support your marketing strategies? Any plans for additional blogs at WMC or other social media initiatives?

Nick: Our marketing strategy has been to be the innovator. We have worked very hard to stay ahead medically, technologically, and philosophically. We have entertained the concept of introducing a minimally invasive surgery blog, and, as far as other social media initiatives are concerned, we are always looking for opportunities, i.e., our streaming videos within the blog were, I am told, a first as well.

C.D's, DVD's, thumb drives have all been used as media distribution pieces as they became available at reasonable costs. Back in the 80's we mailed out inflatable globes, maps, rolled parchment, whatever it took to get people's attention. We are about to claim a position as the first hospital to take a definitive stand against transfatty acids, and may do so by mailing chunks of plastic fat to the media outlets. This action could save 30,000 lives a year.

Diva: At this moment in time, social media/blogs are perceived as a risky proposition with healthcare providers. How did Nick Jacobs get to be so daring?

Nick: "Live on the edge, the view is better from there." That has always been my business sense. When it comes to people's lives, we don't take any chances. We are very very conservative, but when it comes to things like complementary medicine, the newest technologies, the best approaches that embrace mind, body and spirit, my personal life's path has proven to me that we are all different.

We have different phenotypes, different mixes of cells, proteins, and genes. We all react differently to different situations, different stimuli, different words. Consequently, I have always embraced a "drive a little ahead of your headlights" life style when it comes to deciding what is the best thing for people. We are all individuals, and, if a dog licking your hand makes you feel better, bring in the therapy dogs.

Diva: A concern that frequently is expressed is the issue of comments. What is your opinion .. comments on or off? Do you think that comments off is really a conversation?

Nick: After a few months of comments "off," we came under attack from a former disgruntled, impared employee who prided himself on destroying every effort that we made to communicate. He was so destructive that we had to go to a "comments screened" philosophy to keep the truly unstable people off the page.

I have only screened two people, both of whom were destructive toward me personally and were attempting to "take down" the blog by trying to discredit everything that was written. As someone once told me, "Your friends my come and your friends my go, but your enemies accumulate."

Diva: Look into your crystal ball and tell us how you see social/media developing in the healthcare industry.

Nick: Unfortunately, my peers are not generally risk takers. In fact, they love to be onboard after the first two or three thousand of their friends have made the leap.

The docs are more fun because many of them were attracted to healthcare because they are independent souls. Hence, the cat and dog relationship that usually exists between administrators and physicians. So, I think the physicians will have a lot more fun with this social media than hosptial administrators. (If you judge a person's reactions to risk by spaghetti sizes, my peers are mostly angel hair pasta, a.k.a., uptight, as opposed to a trauma surgeon who may be comparable to manicotti, living on the edge.)

So, do I have great confidence that hospital's will embrace this form of communications, not after they read my work. It's too personal, too candid, and too risky for most. BUT it surely has worked for me.

Diva: Works for me too! Nick Jacobs is traveling far ahead of the crowd, making a difference and having a great time.

Note: Cross posted at the Medical Blog Network

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