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November 4, 2012 / achanguris

Mayo Clinic Healthcare Social Media Summit – Stop Blocking Social Media

Day two of the Mayo Clinic Healthcare Social Media Summit began with a discussion of the many, many reasons healthcare organizations shouldn’t be blocking social media. It’s a stance long-championed by Shel Holtz (his StopBlocking website is an extensive resource on the subject). Still, blocking social media seems to be the rule in the healthcare setting.

I’m lucky, social media is part of my job, so I have access. That’s good, because the one thing I really missed from my life as a news reporter was the AP news feed. Twitter fills that void quite nicely.

Still, if I want to share a great YouTube video with a co-worker (an instructional one, not a cute cat video), I have to work around the blocking issue (typically by sending it to his or her cell phone). Also,  if you visit my hospital’s webpage from the hospital network you’ll find big, empty spaces where the YouTube videos should be. The only good news is that it’s not blocked for the public wifi – otherwise I think we’d have full-scale riots on our hands.

The panel suggested gathering the key players in a room — legal, communications, IT, HR and nursing (for starters) — and openly discussing the fears that surround open access to social media. As a proponent of unblocking access, be ready to listen with an open mind and educate without getting defensive or belittling those who express what you might see as unfounded fears.

The panel also recommended looking for case studies to support your argument — they’re more effective than best practices because they’re more specific and concrete. Best practices have their place, but case studies are the better tool in making your case.

Here’s a question to bring up to the group: how would unblocking social media support our strategic goals and/or culture? Be ready to provide compelling answers specific to your organization, but one culture-related point I noted is that opening access is a great way to show trust in your employees. Of course, those who abuse the privilege will suffer the consequences, but it should be a management issue — not a blanket revocation of access.

One more very important nugget: remember that if you’re going to unblock social media, you’re going to need to educate people on how to (and how not to) use it. Get your policies in place and craft a plan to review the rules before the restrictions are lifted, otherwise you’ll make a mess and the nay-sayers could send you back to blocksville.

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