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Should Children’s Hospitals Do Social Media?

I [recently] participated in an interview for an upcoming publication. As the interview wound down, the dialog downshifted into small talk that included, among other things, hospital blogs.

The interviewer (who had recently been exploring the blogging community) asked me what I thought about Thrive’s (Boston Children’s Hospital blog) recent birthday nod to Seattle Mama Doc (Seattle Children’s Hospital blog). More specifically, did I think it was unusual that one children’s hospital would congratulate a competing institution on its one-year anniversary?

I thought the question was odd but it got me thinking: Do children’s hospitals compete in the social space? I don’t think so. They shouldn’t. And if they were competing, what would they be competing for?

Children’s hospitals are inherently regional. Parents of the northwest see Seattle Children’s as the end of the earth. In the northeast, Boston Children’s is the bee’s knees. And while specialty service lines like congenital heart surgery may draw patients from around the world, most kids come from their corner of the world.

Then there’s the broader question about the point of a blog for a children’s hospital. Is it a marketing gimmick or does it serve a higher function?

For many hospitals, a blog is a gimmick. But the moment a hospital goes beyond maintaining its blog with the intent of selling something is the point at which messaging has the potential to generate human dialog and make a difference. Just look at Seattle’s Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson or Boston’s Dr. Claire McCarthy.

The world is increasingly flat. We live in a global pediatric community that goes beyond the commutable distance to the nearest children’s hospital. On a macro level, I would like to see children’s hospitals work together using social’s tools. Cooperative posting and messaging that serves the needs of our most vulnerable population would seem to be a valuable mission. Coordinated leverage of our readership could have a real impact on issues such as immunization and other topics digitally underserved by pediatric professionals.

Thrive’s simple congratulations shows that in a way we’ve all got the same mission. We’re all in this together.

*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*

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