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Nearly All Hospitals Have Social Media Presence

PHILADELPHIA – Somewhere amid the cute cat videos and incessant tweets about Downton Abbey, the vast majority of U.S. hospitals also have a presence on social media, according to a new study.

The report, published recently in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, discusses the adoption and use of social media based on hospital characteristics.

“Use of social media has become widespread across the United States,” according to the study led by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania. “Although businesses have invested in social media to engage consumers and promote products, less is known about the extent to which hospitals are using social media to interact with patients and promote health.”

To determine usage, the researchers conducted a cross-sectional review of hospital-related activity on four social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and Foursquare. The review included 3,371 U.S. hospitals which reported complete data for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey and the American Hospital Association Annual Survey.

In addition, the researchers analyzed hospital social media webpages to determine the extent of adoption relative to hospital characteristics, including geographic region, urban designation, bed size, ownership type, and teaching status.

Used to determine the extent of social media utilization was the number of Facebook likes, Twitter followers, Foursquare check-ins, and Yelp reviews.

Results indicate that adoption of social media varied across hospitals with 94.41% having a Facebook page and 50.82% having a Twitter account. Nearly all hospitals, 99.14%, had a Yelp page (99.14%, 3342/3371) and almost all hospitals and check-ins on Foursquare (99.41%).

High utilization was most likely with large, urban, private nonprofit, and teaching hospitals, according to the study.

“Although most hospitals adopted at least one social media platform, utilization of social media varied according to several hospital characteristics,” the authors write. “This preliminary investigation of social media adoption and utilization among U.S. hospitals provides the framework for future studies investigating the effect of social media on patient outcomes, including links between social media use and the quality of hospital care and services.”