How are healthcare institutions using Facebook to interact with online communities? Results from a case study in Central Pennsylvania

Daniel R. George, Lauren Kime, Timothy D. Riley


Social media tools and applications are increasingly being integrated into modern medicine. However, little is known about how healthcare institutions are interacting online with their populations. In this case study, we identified a convenience sample of 11 institutions in Central Pennsylvania with Facebook Pages and evaluated their interactions with online communities. From May-June 2013, we noted type of healthcare institution (e.g. hospital, family practice); number of overall “likes” accrued by the healthcare facility; number of overall posts and “likes”, “comments”, and “content shares” associated with those posts; as well as number of location check-ins by “followers”. We thematically categorized each institutional post. Average number of Facebook Page “likes” was 2,261, and average number of overall posts was 28.9, or about one post every three days. On average, each post generated 16 “likes”, 1 comment, and 2.4 shares. Average number of location “check-ins” by visiting patients was 6,348. Most commonly published content across all Pages was advertisements (89%) and institutional news (89%). Patient populations in Central Pennsylvania are seeking out healthcare institutions on Facebook, although most communication appears unidirectional and involves institutional advertising and promotion. There are opportunities for institutions to focus on health promotion and undertake “social” preventive health strategies using social media.

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Journal of Hospital Administration

ISSN 1927-6990(Print)   ISSN 1927-7008(Online)

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