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Beth Israel Medical Center CEO Advocates for Social Media in Health Care [INTERVIEW]

By on June 09, 2010 • 61 Comments

Paul Levy Paul Levy, one of the country’s best known hospital CEOs, is the chief executive at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. He’s also a self proclaimed blogging addict, an advocate for transparency regarding hospital operations, and is on a growing list of “social” CEOs who leverage social media to communicate with their audience. Levy writes his own blog called Running a Hospital, where he shares his thoughts on hospitals, medicine, and health care issues.

Our own Jennifer Hill spoke with Levy about health care executives and their organizations using social media. Here’s what he had to say:

1. Do you think it’s important for health care CEOs and other C-level execs to be educated about and to use social media?
Yes. They are definitely important tools just as telephones were when they were first invented. To not use them would mean losing opportunities to communicate and educate. Different segments of the population use different tools. For example, patients that come to the hospital in their 20s would rather use Facebook or text than e-mail. For me not to use those forms of media would mean that I wasn’t hearing from them.

2. What tools would you advocate? (Blog, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, others?) and why?
Different people prefer different tools and each tool has a different use. Facebook is a great communication tool and using it means that you are accessible. It is a good way to keep in touch with people. For me, Twitter acts as a library. I follow a bunch of people in the field who are up to date with what is going on. They act as librarians for me and are a valuable resource. Blogging is a time commitment that requires a personal commitment and interest in networking so that my blog gets picked up and read. All of them are valuable tools for different reasons.

3. Do you think having the CEO, or perhaps other C-level execs, involved with social media helps set the tone for the whole organization to embrace social media too?
Yes. I think it is a combination of leading by example and of being available. health care is becoming more accepting and more comfortable with the idea. However, many hospitals still block sites, but we have an open access policy for two reasons: one, these social media sites are tools that help to create a sense of community; and two, if the sites are blocked on the server, people will just go on them on their iPhones.

4. What do you see as the major benefits to C-levels execs using social media?
I think there a two major benefits. First, social media is a way to get educated about what is going on and to keep up to date. It provides information that we used to get from books, magazines and newspapers. Second, it creates a sense of community, which is very important.

5. What advice would you give to executives / organizations who are apprehensive about using social technologies? What advice do you have about the content that executives should be posting online?
Regarding what executives should be posting online, it is important to make judgments as to what you want to accomplish. These media outlets are flexible and can be used for many different goals. It is more powerful than traditional media because the outreach is so great. I think that it is actually lower risk because if you make a mistake it can be fixed whereas is if you make a mistake in an ad or on television, it’s there forever.

6. How much time do you spend blogging or using other social tools each week?
I don’t keep track, just like I don’t keep track of how much time I spend on the phone. It is a more efficient way to communicate. I can talk to thousands of people at once. It is asynchronous and people can communicate when it is convenient for them. When I talk on the phone, I can only talk to one person at a time and I’m usually leaving a message.

7. Some experts believe that there is a trend developing called the “social executive” and that “open leadership” is the way of the future. Do you agree? How do you envision social media will impact health care organizations and health care leaders in the future?
I’m not really sure. In the health care field it is very hard to predict trends. The medical field is slow to adopt things and different people have different approaches.

Here’s a video interview with Levy and other social CEOs from Ragan Communications:

Finally, we’ve been having a lively discussion about senior living and long-term care CEOs using social media over at the ALFA Exchange community.  If you want to dive deeper into this subject, feel free to drop by there and join the conversation.

We want to thank Paul Levy for taking the time to talk with us and we wish him well with his blogging efforts.

To view more health care executive blogs, check out this list:

Photo credit: BostonHerald.com

Jennifer Hill is currently at senior at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. She is a Communications major concentrating in Public Relations and Journalism and minoring in Psychology. You can connect with her on Twitter on LinkedIn.

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