Mayo Clinic Facebook logs on

| March 23, 2008

This will go in for Medicine 2.0 but interesting concept —
By Jeff Hansel, Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN 

In the old days, patients came to Rochester from far and wide as the reputation of Mayo Clinic grew by word of mouth.

Clinic officials want to continue that positive-word-of-mouth grapevine, but with a modern-day twist, says Lee Aase, Mayo’s manager for syndication and social media.

To make that happen, Mayo has started using an Internet tool more often associated with teenagers and 20-somethings — Facebook.

"It’ll be authentic. It’ll be people sharing their own experiences," Aase said Wednesday afternoon.

Mayo’s page on the social networking website is relatively new, with its current version going online just a few weeks ago and no advertising campaign yet.

But as people stumble across the page within the Facebook non-profits category, they’ve begun to get interested — just like they used to get interested when someone told a story after visiting Rochester.

The Mayo Facebook page includes links to Mayo podcasts, Web sites, health information and history.

Designers especially want to encourage patients who’ve already received treatment at Mayo to tell their stories online.

No estimates have been made for expected page visits.

"We really don’t know what to expect," Aase said. "But we also know that this is a service in Facebook that now has 65 million regular users."

The site is growing by thousands of new worldwide users daily.

That represents a gold mine, both for Facebook and for Mayo’s hospitals and clinics. Facebook etiquette frowns on removal of reader comments, Aase said, although Mayo will remove any egregious comments.

For now, Mayo doesn’t expect to add staff to handle the page. But that’s a possibility if enough people begin visiting.

In Aase’s view, the more patients who share their stories, the better. He expects Facebook to one day be as necessary a communication tool as a telephone.

"Facebook is one of the social-networking sites where increasing numbers of people are going," he said. "It’s like having a white pages ad or yellow pages ad."

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