How the Cleveland Clinic Uses Social Media to Attract New Patients

The 90-year-old nonprofit, which runs nine community hospitals and 15 family health centers, has jumped into Web and social media communications in a major way, posting over 30,000 pages of content and 1,500 videos on its website.

It has strong presences on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social platforms, and its website offers virtual tours of its campus and opportunities to meet the physicians. Its health care content draws 2.2 million visitors a month, making it one of the most trafficked hospital websites in the country.

The real-world hospitals are no less popular. U.S. News & World Report ranked Cleveland Clinic as one of the top hospitals in America in 2010.  Last year there were 4 million visits throughout the Cleveland Clinic health system and 155,000 admissions, the clinic reports. Patients came from every state and from more than 100 countries.

The achievement is impressive when one considers that the population of Cuyahoga County, where the headquarters is located, declined by 8.2 percent between 2000 and 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau reports. Relying on a local messaging strategy would mean a downward spiral for the institution.

“For us to be successful it’s important that we have strong communications and marketing programs that bring patients to Northeast Ohio,” says Chief Marketing Officer Paul Matsen. “Digital plays a critical part of that. … The core of any great hospital website is trusted medical content.”

A recent study shows that 80 percent of those diagnosed with a disease search the Internet first for information, he says. A roughly equal number discover Cleveland Clinic through searches.

The clinic maintains not only its main Web presences and social media sites, but more than 100 search engine marketing campaigns with distinct landing pages, he says.

The heart and vascular institute, for example, has had campaigns through Google, Bing and Yahoo on topics such as complex aortic surgery, and orthopedics offers information on joint replacements. Neurology has spread information on the treatment of brain tumors.

“You can geo-target those campaigns, so some of those run very locally, some run regionally, some run nationally depending on the specialty,” Matsen says.

What patients find on the landing pages are guides on diseases or conditions written by Cleveland Clinic physicians. Some include video and a downloadable guide, but they all provide a way make an appointment.

This also allows the clinic to chart the success of the campaigns. “So we can absolutely track the revenue and the contribution margin and the return on investment on the investment that we’ve made on the web,” Matsen says.

The website also includes a “find a doctor” tool that enables patients to take virtual tours and access med records.
A core digital team of more than 15 people manage, and the YouTube, Facebook and Twitter feed. Beyond that, there are 200 approved users across the clinic who can create content, but they have to follow the appropriate templates and guidelines and be approved by a workflow coordinator.

To make sure the experience is worthwhile for visitors, the clinic continually surveys website users using ForeSee Results. The clinical content gets an overhaul every two years, and new content is added daily, Matsen says.

The clinic has embraced Twitter as a means of linking its 2,800 full-time physicians and researchers with the general public. It Tweets from major conferences and presentations by its doctors, and it hosts Twitter chats in which the public can interact with the medical team.

Click here to read the full article by Russell Working with REGAN’S Health Care Communication News.


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