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Facebook stories and scandals: Mayo Clinic deals with them

We all know that Mayo Clinic is an example for all the healthcare institutions in the world regarding the inclusion of social media in their communication. Here are two stories that happened with Mayo Clinic and that they could handle properly.

1) A Latvian doctor at Mayo sent a controversial letter to a Latvian government official in 2009 in which he stated “as a physician, [he] cannot treat equally Russians and Latvians.” Now the letter was translated and caused serious troubles to Mayo as users left comments on the wall of the Mayo Facebook page. Mayo could deal with this properly by using fast, accurate communication with users, open comments and they tried to “flood” the stream of negative comments with positive news and announcements. Later, they asked users to comment on this issue on a different discussion tab leaving the main page for other news.

For a clinic having such open and social media centered communication, I think they cannot let this happen without consequences, they should have fired the particular doctor for 1) publishing racist comments and 2) for keeping the positive attention/reputation they have been building for a long time. Instead, they posted a message saying that they “have talked with Dr. Slucis regarding the nature, tone and perception of his comments. Regarding every other aspect, the way they handled the situation was perfect.

2) A patient posted a picture on the Mayo Facebook page about a wound/infection and asked for help. As I teach students about such situations in the Internet in Medicine course, they should let the patient know that they can’t diagnose online and provide them with real contact addresses. That’s exactly what Mayo Clinic did in this situation. Although other comments came with diagnostic ideas and miracle cures, but that’s not Mayo’s problem.

Mayo Clinic could deal with two serious issues and is still an example not only for healthcare institutions planning to use social media, but also for any kind of companies that try to promote and defend a brand online.

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mayo are not responsible for the information posted on their page by patients but they could give more direction.
    The ‘about’ information does not advise patients about the public nature of the page and that this should not be used to seek medical advice. It is therefore not surprising if occasionally this does happen.
    I raised this with Mayo soon after they initiated their social media presence. I think that they could do more to highlight the very public nature of posts on this page.

    I also think that when resharing those posts it might be best to anonymise the image unless that patient has given consent for you to share this story in your blog.

    Thanks as always for your interesting perpsective,


    July 27, 2012
  2. Great comment, Anne-Marie, as usual!

    Regarding the resharing, as the patient made the information public, I don’t think a consent is needed, but this is a similar issue to the ethical aspects of crowdsourcing. What do you think?

    July 27, 2012
    • Anonymous #

      I suppose my concern is that we don’t really know that patient understood public nature and now you are amplifying. The story would have same impact if you obscured names.

      July 27, 2012
  3. Editor #

    Reblogged this on Health Care Social Media Monitor.

    July 28, 2012

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