Leading in Social at Cleveland Clinic

May 23, 2012
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There’s a short list of medical centers that are truly global brands: Mayo Clinic, Memorial Sloan-Kettering, Johns-Hopkins, and of course, Cleveland Clinic.  They have reputations and non-U.S. physical presence.  For them as for most global brands, social media and patient experience have become strategic concerns.  For Cleveland’s Paul Matsen, this time it’s personal and he aims for it to be truly inter-active.

There’s a short list of medical centers that are truly global brands: Mayo Clinic, Memorial Sloan-Kettering, Johns-Hopkins, and of course, Cleveland Clinic.  They have reputations and non-U.S. physical presence.  For them as for most global brands, social media and patient experience have become strategic concerns.  For Cleveland’s Paul Matsen, this time it’s personal and he aims for it to be truly inter-active.

On Sunday I was privileged to speak at Cleveland’s Patient Experience Summit, and more importantly, could learn more about Cleveland’s ambitions to become a credible source of information and engagement for patients, as well as it’s commitment to making digital communications and marketing a sustained focus that will reinforce its medical leadership.

Paul Matsen came from Delta Airlines, where he was CMO, so he’s not born and bred in healthcare, but brings a fresh perspective from an outside industry. Although health providers in general have been slow to embrace twitter, facebook and syndicated blogging, Matsen has ignored industry convention and started in 2009 on a clear strategic plan that is showing results.  He created a clear social media policy right away.  He has created a cross-departmental team with significant responsibilities and a company-wide steering committee to foster continual alignment with company brand and goals.  Its twitter following (50K) is one of the largest for a hospital, and its Facebook page numbers 75,000 people who “like” the page.  But as impressive as these numbers are, particularly for healthcare, the more innovative leadership is in its newest venture: Health Hub, a patient-friendly platform is intended to be a first of its kind. 

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The problem with healthcare and social is silos.  Sites like Sermo and others, funded by the pharmaceutical industry, are great for physicians but are closed to the public, and because of their sponsorship, are necessarily driven by concerns with drugs.  Academic institutions, like the National Institutes of Health, have gone far to create “open access” to peer-reviewed research, but although accessible it is not for the lay-reader and sites like PubMed only provide a synopsis.  Newer initiatives like the Polis (tk) site are promising but not well-known.  Into the breach, not surprisingly, you see renowned medical/academic centers like Cleveland and others who can provide the “missing link” between authoritative information and patients (or increasingly, “customers.”)

“We see Health Hub Health as breaking down the walls between digital content and off-line content,” Matsen explained.  “For a world-class academic medical center, we have the resources to create our own content,” and rightly, Matsen recognized that very same content as the kind of “pull marketing” strategy that will continue to attract a global audience.  Seventy-five percent of the home site come from outside Ohio, and with Cleveland Clinics located in Florida, Canada, and elsewhere,  and now coming to Abu Dhabi, it’s important that the site engage with those customers in the ways and times that they wish.

Unlike other institutions and in spite of numbers which show that physicians as a whole are resistant to using social media for professional purposes, Cleveland has trained its physicians in media and encourages inter-action on the site.  As Cleveland has seen its global web traffic in four years grow from 15M to 36M annually, its role as a leader in social media, and more importantly, as a leader in healthcare, can only increase. For “what we’re trying to do, we’ve gotten tremendous organizational support for our strategy and since we have to draw patients from all over, content is very important to us.  Healthcare  is the ultimate ‘pull’ marketing strategy.”  Indeed.

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