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Sunnybrook is leveraging social media to reach the outside world more powerfully.

Brent Creelman

From getting Facebook users talking about a hearing-impaired superhero or tweeting about ending the stigma of mental illness, Sunnybrook is leveraging social media to reach the outside world more powerfully.

Whether it happens through Facebook (, Twitter ( , YouTube or other social media (Flickr photostreaming and blogs), Sunnybrook spreads messages of inspiration, allows new parents to post pictures of their newborns, tells the public about new treatments and research, connects people with interest groups, answers simple queries and encourages collaborations between hospitals and across health systems.

"Social media gives us the opportunity to connect directly with the community," says Sivan Keren Young, manager of digital communications with the hospital's Web Communications Team. "Positive comments and complaints don't always reach patient relations, but the tweeting world gives us the chance to see what people are talking about, and helps us improve."

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Thanks to filters and automatic searches, the web team is notified immediately whenever Sunnybrook or @SunnybrookHSC is mentioned on Twitter, she explains. The web team can either jump into the conversation then, or invite a private conversation through Twitter's direct messaging. It's proven to be a valuable tool in Sunnybrook's communications arsenal.

"It lets us help people who wouldn't think to ask for help," says Sivan. "If someone Tweets, 'Wow, Sunnybrook is huge and I'm lost,' it gives us the opportunity to respond and help them find where they need to go. We can really improve the patient experience in that way."

It's estimated at least half of adults use social media sites, and the health-care industry is taking advantage of the massive potential of the web technology.

Canadian hospitals using Twitter, Facebook or blogs numbered more than 260 in 2011, according to the blog Social Media in Canadian Health Care.

In the U.S., more than 1,000 hospitals have embraced social media, according to the ECRI Institute, a non-profit organization that researches approaches to improving safety and cost effectiveness of patient care.

A 2012 report by the institute also warns that disorganized social media approaches can damage an organization's credibility and reputation.


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What captures online attention?

Here are just a few of the most popular Facebook, Twitter and YouTube highlights in recent months.

fb capture
MARCH 2012 The Stanley Cup made a stop at our Veterans Centre, and the excitement was captured by photographer Dale Roddick.

Flash mob at Sunnybrook hospital – National Physiotherapy Month
Link to video here.
The beauty of flash mobs is they get attention in the most unexpected places. Like, say, a hospital. Last week, Sunnybrook was hit four times by a group of our physiotherapists dressed in matching blue shirts and getting their groove on.

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