Steward Health Care System

“We believe in world-class health care where you live.”

By Molly Clarke and Meghan Crozier

Steward Health Care System is a fully integrated community care program headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts. Essentially, this means Steward is a network of community hospitals and health care providers that works together to serve the health care needs of the surrounding populations. This includes sharing resources such as their world-class physician group and clinical information technology. As a result Steward is able to offer the highest quality of care to their patients.

Steward Health Care is the second largest health care system in New England and also the second largest private employer in Massachusetts.  Steward has approximately 14,000 employees serving more than one million patients annually in 85 communities in Massachusetts.  Their network is currently made up of 10 hospitals and quickly growing.  Steward’s hospitals include:  Saint Anne’s Hospital in Fall River, Holy Family Hospital in Methuen, St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton, Norwood Hospital, Carney Hospital in Dorchester, Merrimack Valley Hospital in Haverhill, Nashoba Valley Medical Center in Ayer, and Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton. President and CEO of Steward Health Care is Dr. Ralph de la Torre.

Steward Health Care is a very new brand.  It was established in 2010 when private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management purchased Caritas Christi Health Care and renamed it Steward Health Care System LLC. Caritas Christi Health Care had been a non-profit, Roman Catholic health care provider consisting of six New England hospitals. After being purchased by Cerberus Capital Management and converted into Steward Health Care System, the network no longer operated as a non-profit and began paying state and local taxes in order to provide established levels of free care to those in need.

Today, Steward Health Care is developing rapidly. They have been selected as one of the 32 health care systems nationwide to participate in the Pioneer Accountable Care Organization Model, as part of the Affordable Care Act. Steward has also announced that it is looking to expand even further.  CEO, Dr. Ralph de la Torre revealed earlier this year at the J.P Morgan Health Care Conference in San Fran Cisco, that the company has future plans to mimic their regional approach to health care on the national level.

Strategically speaking, Steward Health Care System is positioned to thrive in the new health care environment.  With talk of further growth and expansion, the Steward marketing team is pulling out all the stops.  Coming off a highly successful Super Bowl Ad Campaign, the team has even bigger advertisement efforts in the works.  One medium that Steward has yet to tap into, however, is the world of social media.  Although the company is often ahead of the curve when employing the latest technologies and marketing strategies, their online brand is surprisingly lacking. Currently in place are the company’s main website and YouTube channel.  Other than that Steward Health Care has virtually no other online presence.

When interviewing Chris Murphy, director of media relations, we were able to ask him why the company had not attempted to harness the power of social media.  His answer, Steward Health Care has been in a constant state of growth since its establishment in 2010. The marketing team has been focused on larger initiatives in order to effectively support this growth.  However, now that the company has become more established, the team is beginning to consider the use of social media as a way to increase their online presence.

For health care providers, using social media constructively has almost become an exact science. Concerns about privacy and liability surround the use of social media in this field causing many to hesitate before jumping on the social media bandwagon.  In February however, many logged on to Twitter to witness the world’s first ever live-tweeted open-heart surgery from a hospital in Houston; a sure sign that the hospital industry has begun to welcome social media with open arms.

Our social media plan for Steward Health Care System has been created methodically to ensure that the company is able to learn for themselves how best to leverage social media in a manner that enables them to meet their specific organizational and business goals without violating industry guidelines.

Before embarking on their social media quest, we suggest that in order to have complete control over social media messaging, distribution and interaction, the company should strictly develop an online brand for Steward Health Care rather than dividing social media use by individual hospitals.  Steward should also distinguish and set specific goals for themselves as a company regarding what they wish to accomplish through the use of Social Media.  More specifically, it will be important to pinpoint the main audiences they wish to target online and even more importantly which social media platforms are best suited to reach this audience. We urge Steward to systematically plan their use of social media in stages rather than rushing into all platforms at once. This will help the company create a more effective and lasting social media presence.  Once a specific plan has been laid out, it would be beneficial for Steward to consider what type of branding they will be doing online and how to present consistent messaging across all social media platforms.

Having given these specific instructions and discussing them with Chris Murphy, we suggest that Steward Health Care utilize social media to expand the Steward Brand. This may include emphasizing company news, outlining the new business model, marketing physicians and important medical advances, and lastly gaining and keeping a strong patient following.  According to Steward’s specific goals and needs we have recommended that, over time, they create accounts on both Facebook and Twitter. We also suggest that they create a company blog and continue to post all company videos to the Steward Health Care System YouTube channel. These four outlets will provide access to Steward patients across the system and if used effectively each social media platform will be able to drive traffic to each of the others for optimum social media exposure.

We believe that creating a company blog will be the most beneficial platform to begin online branding. Blogging gives companies a great amount of freedom to control and develop content that their consumers, or in Steward’s case patients, will be interested in. Posts on the blog could focus on something as particular as a single physician or even something as broad as the health care industry. Other ideas include posts about company growth, leadership, and the healthcare reform. Local, regional, and even national industry news would also make appropriate blog posts. Posts can take the form of traditional articles, question and answers, professional commentary, links, and relevant videos.

A Steward-branded Twitter account would be useful in directing traffic towards all other social media platforms, particularly the company website and blog.  We suggest tweeting about news articles, executive speaking engagements, new initiatives, and new technologies at hospitals within Steward Health Care System.  It is important to follow other health care leaders as well as regularly engagE with them. This could take the form of retweeting noteworthy information or quoting an important speaker. This step will help Steward gain a larger following and could result in improving its’ name.

Facebook could be used similarly to cross-promote Steward’s presence. Facebook differs from Twitter in that it is more effective in sharing photographs and we suggest that Steward Health Care use this difference to their advantage. Facebook is also a great tool to get patient feedback. Prompt responses to both complaints and praise will be a valuable step to creating a good reputation for Steward online.  Many companies use Facebook to hold contests and offer deals to their online following. Although the health care industry is slightly different and may not be able to do so, we urge Steward to think creatively to engage their Facebook fans.

One thing we asked Steward to keep in mind is that Social Media, unlike almost every other form of marketing and advertising, is interactive. They will receive all types of feedback from their audience- good and bad. A company must be willing to take both constructively and respond in a way that reflects the values and goals of Steward Health Care. Although this poses concerns for many, we choose to see this as an opportunity to remain open and honest with consumers.

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