INDUSTRY Healthcare
COUNTRY United States

Spectrum Health engages 24/7 with more than 600,000 plan members and 22,500 employees with social media.

Business Need

As West Michigan's largest healthcare provider, Spectrum Health sought to expand its social media influence and analytics to better engage and inform the community.


Spectrum Health added social media analytics, reporting and response capabilities with support from NTT DATA Social Media and Digital Marketing Services.


  • Provides greater accessibility to the community, patients, families and friends
  • Helps expand social media channels while minimising additional work
  • Enables faster response to crisis situations

“Our much-enhanced social media reporting capabilities save us at least 20 hours a week for other work, thanks to the Social Media and Digital Marketing Services team”.

Michael Yoder Social Media Strategist,  Spectrum Health

Today’s healthcare industry suffers a growing and chronic ailment that, at times, becomes acute and can undermine effective healthcare delivery: misinformation. While social media can and does help spread that misinformation, often with hysterical fever, it can also help contain unsubstantiated “facts”, rabid speculation and uninformed opinions with timely, accurate and expert evidence to the contrary.

Keeping the community well informed is one of the key challenges of Michael Yoder, social media strategist at Spectrum Health, West Michigan’s largest healthcare provider. He’s among its 22,500 employees, including 1,300 doctors and advanced practice providers, who operate 12 hospitals and 180 auxiliary sites. In addition to caring for walk-in patients from the community at large, the organisation provides health coverage to more than 600,000 members of its Priority Health insurance plan.

Social media’s critical role in health care 

Yoder sees social media playing a critical role in healthcare delivery, in part because misinformation can spread fast. “So much information online can be inaccurate”, he says. “At Spectrum Health, we have a responsibility to participate in the conversation that’s going on in social media and to provide validated, expert information to counter some of the misinformation that’s being shared”. 

With the help of just one other corporate team member, Yoder oversees the publishing of content several times a day on more than 30 social media channels including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, SlideShare, Spectrum Health’s blogs, Google+ and Instagram. Its biggest audiences are on Facebook and LinkedIn, where the Spectrum Health LinkedIn company page has more than 21,000 followers, and its Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Facebook page has nearly 80,000 likes.

“Social media in healthcare has changed in recent years from a provider’s focus to centreing more on engaging patients and their loved ones and helping them get the information they need”, Yoder explains. “People today expect to get information when they want it, how they want it and where they want it. So we need to be where they’re having these conversations and be available when and where they want to talk to us”.

Growing needs demanded new capabilities 

That can be a tall order for a two-person team, even with help from an internal federation of about a dozen social media “ambassadors” spread across Spectrum Health’s public relations, patient relations, marketing and other functions. Yoder had been using another social monitoring product but found that after its acquisition by another company the product’s development and support lagged the organisation’s growing needs.

“We needed a better approach to monitoring and reporting”, Yoder says. “So we met with NTT DATA and a couple of other providers. Our due diligence included a visit to their Social Media Listening Command Centre, where I was impressed with what they’ve done and are doing in social media. Clearly, they are on the leading edge in using social media most effectively. Its competitors we evaluated didn’t compare.” 

After a thorough discovery phase – learning all it could about Spectrum Health, its stakeholders, and its social media history and requirements – NTT DATA recommended deployment of a powerful but easy-to-use social monitoring and reporting platform.

Insights through better social intelligence 

“With this platform”, Yoder says, “we can tap into the conversations, understand what the trends are in our wide range of health care topics and concerns, and learn what conversations we should be participating in and talking about”.

Yoder says he could have deployed their recommended analytics platform on his own, but it would have taken him at least two months longer given all his other responsibilities. “We were able to accelerate our adoption and return on investment in our new social monitoring and reporting platform with NTT DATA expertise and experience in helping us deploy it”, he explains. “Plus, their ongoing support is especially important to us”.

With the new social analytics platform the Social Media and Digital Marketing Services team helped Yoder deploy, he can now better monitor social conversations, especially during spikes in volume caused by concerns like Ebola, vaccines or even activist issues. “For example, an activist issue lit up our channels recently, mostly from the West Coast and overseas, and threatened to become a major PR concern”, he says. “We were alerted almost immediately, they gave us a full report in half a day, and we were able to contain it by day’s end”.

Like adding a full-time staff analyst 

With analytics and reporting as critical underpinnings of Spectrum Health’s social intelligence, Yoder uses his analytics data and NTT DATA help to publish a monthly social care report. He distributes it across his internal social media federation and to his director, who includes relevant parts in reports to executive management.

“Our much-enhanced social media reporting capabilities save us at least 20 hours a week for other work, thanks to the Social Media and Digital Marketing Services team”, Yoder says. “In all, we now handle chores that would require a full-time analyst”.

Among that “other work” are two new Instagram channels that Yoder was able to set up and manage but that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. “We’re now more accessible and responsive to our customers than ever with them as our social media partner”, he says, “And that’s what they want – to know that there’s a person on the other side of the screen on their PCs, tablets or smartphones”. *

*This case study was originally written by Dell Services, which has become NTT DATA Services as of November 2016.