Earlier this summer, we took a look at a few different ways that hospitals have been using social media – or even what new networks could mean for future patient outreach. There are some hospitals and health centers that are ahead the pack, and the best example may be the Mayo Clinic.

The Mayo Clinic raised the bar in the past month, not only further committing resources to digital and social media efforts, but also by creating a first-of-the-field Center for Social Media. As Valeria Maltoni reported at Conversation Agent, the effort is designed to “accelerate effective application of social media tools throughout Mayo Clinic and to spur broader and deeper engagement in social media by hospitals, medical professionals and patients to improve health globally.”

As a case study on textbook engagement in the healthcare space, here are a few different ways the Mayo is using online channels – and what it could mean for the future of patient communication.

The Mayo Blog Network

At the tip of the iceberg is solid, original content, and Mayo lays its social media center on that foundation. There are few places that are as well respected when it comes to healthcare leadership as the Mayo Clinic, and by creating a blog network with these experts on topics like nutrition, pregnancy and dealing with depression, Mayo can ensure it always has quality information to share.

Cases in Social

As we have learned, the lessons from general consumer PR do not always apply to health communication, especially online. For a healthcare facility like the Mayo Clinic, there aren’t many examples to look toward while determining a new program. To help fill that gap, one section of the Center focuses on case studies of what organizations have successfully done in the space.

Centralizing Existing Networks

Across the big three social networks, few healthcare facilities are even in the neighborhood of the Mayo Clinic’s audience: 67,000 strong on Twitter, another 23,000 Facebook fans and more than 2.4 million total views of 800-plus YouTube videos uploaded. Not too shabby. But by building a central home, it brings all of these networks and conversations into one – making both monitoring and engagement less of a challenge.

Sharing Mayo Clinic

Up to this point, everything discussed has generally been content created by the organization (or at least conversations moderated by it). One additional component of the center, though, is Sharing Mayo Clinic, a blog dedicated to the stories of patients and families, as well as Mayo Clinic staff. With the number of people who touch Mayo, it’s easy to gather these stories, and promoting them online helps to get those interactions out to people looking for someone going through what they are. It’s further worth noting how simple this was to create: a free WordPress blog, a small annual fee to move it to the mayoclinic.org domain and minimal design. Complexity doesn’t make things interesting; this is excellent proof that compelling content matters much more.

But Why?

Katherine Hobson of WSJ Health Blog got a chance to interview Lee Aase, one of the managers of Mayo’s center. Hobson asked Aase what the goals of the new effort were, and Aase’s straight forward response is worth ending on, “[What’s the goal?] To help patients. Sometimes that means providing information directly to them, and sometimes it means disseminating information more rapidly to the medical community.”

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