Health 2.0: Are we listening to patients?

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Recently I finished reading ‘El mundo amarillo’, the first book by Albert Espinosa, which had been sitting on my night stand for some time now. For those of you who haven’t read it, El mundo amarillo gives the lessons that the author learnt during the ten years he suffered from cancer, from fourteen to twenty-four, and how he applies them in his life.

The book looks back rather admirably on ten years of constant fight, optimism, and spirit to overcome the odds, during which he moved around several hospitals, undergoing multiple tests and treatments, which often translated into long stays in hospital.

A long health pilgrimage that brought the author to note the lack of services and entertainment spaces in hospitals. Chess tables, board games, TVs, video games and wireless Internet connection. “Imagination was lacking when hospitals were designed,” says the author in the book.

Communication with users

Users are the main raison d’etre of a hospital. As recipients of the health service, the hospital should provide complete care and resolution of their needs (Salcedo de Prado, 2012: 35). A deep understanding of what those needs are can be achieved through an extremely simple mechanism: listening.

We need to encourage resources that allow us to answer the question: “What do our users need and how can we offer them that?”

Currently the Patient Information Service or suggestion box enables management to discover their strengths and weaknesses from outside the institution, in order to adopt realistic decisions based on suitable criteria. However, these tools are not always effective. Users have to deal with endless telephone calls, unread emails or hard to find suggestions boxes.

Social networks: a new 2.0 suggestion box

Social networks become an opportunity for users to contact the institution thanks to their speed, accessibility and transparency.

Currently, 1,501 US hospitals use social networks, according to a study carried out by the Mayo Clinic.

These social tools give us the chance to meet and establish a constant dialog with users, an opportunity we shouldn’t waste.

Yet, what is the main goal of these social tools? Respond to or manage their inquiries? Or simply promote services and generate visibility to attract new users and resources and build loyalty?

Hospitals need to carefully reflect on their relationship with users, ensure they are getting the full care and attention and their needs are met in order to meet their institutional mission.

Laura Diéguez is a journalist specialized in business and digital communication, and is also assistant lecturer at Escola Universitaria Creu Roja