Healthcare Marketing: Facebook Page Dedicated to Healthcare Gone Bad

Now consumers are encouraged to post horror stories about their medical experiences on a newly launched Facebook page.

ProPublica, the Pulitzer Prize winning organization that collaborates with other media outlets for investigative journalism, has now established its “Patient Harm Community” Facebook page.  Patients can sign up and post the graphic details about their healthcare experiences gone bad.  And there is a special “files” page entitled “What to do if you’ve been harmed” which gives instructions on how to issue complaints against doctors, nurses and hospitals.

Cheryl Clark, writing for HealthLeaders Media, wrote a story about the new Facebook page.  She reports that ProPublica’s Marshall Allen, who uncovered systemic poor quality in Nevada hospitals for a 2010 series in the Las Vegas Sun called “Do No Harm”, and himself a Pulitzer finalist, explains what prompted the Facebook venture.

“For starters, he says, the one million people—a staggering number—who suffer injuries, infections, and errors in healthcare facilities across the country each year had very few places to turn for advice, until now. 
Over the years, I’ve talked to scores of patients who have been harmed while undergoing medical care, and the one thing that always struck me is the fact they feel so alone,” he says.

“When they suffer this type of harm, they complain to doctors and hospital officials and regulators, but they often don’t feel that they’re being listened to. 
I wanted to find a way to give these folks an opportunity to talk to one another, offer advice, encouragement, and comfort, and get questions answered. A lot of them are at different stages of the process of working through the things that happened to them.”

“I think for hospital leaders this would be a great place for them to put an ear to the ground, to hear what patients are really saying, and factor that in when they make decisions,” Allen says. “We created this for doctors, nurses, hospitals, and healthcare officials just as much as it was created for patients.”

This is very much a two-edged for hospital leaders and marketers.  It’s helpful to be able to actually read patients’ experiences and learn from their points of view.  And it introduces a new level of public accountability, which is also good.

However, the other edge is the page will be an invitation for patients or family members who are upset, emotional and angry to exaggerate claims without fully understanding the natural course of illness and diseases and treatment of such.  And when that happens, the hospital has very limited recourse for rebuttal or explanation due to privacy laws.

Such a site can serve a very worthwhile purpose for patients and for healthcare professionals.  But it can also be very dangerous and create more harm than it attempts to prevent.  It is a site all healthcare marketers should monitor and pay close attention to; just in case your hospital appears in one of the stories on the page, to learn from a patient’s perspective about their experiences and concerns, and to see if and how other healthcare professionals and marketers handle issues that appear there.  

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