Stakeholders to providers: Take it to Twitter

Friday, August 24, 2012

WASHINGTON – Congressional staffers are becoming more and more plugged into social media, and industry stakeholders say this is a can’t-miss opportunity for HME providers.

“We encourage all providers across the country to become involved,” said Wayne Stanfield, president and CEO of NAIMES. “This has great potential to do things we never have before—this is grassroots advocacy at its best.”

Stanfield encourages providers to contact members of Congress through Twitter and Facebook and include a link to in their messages. Since social media posts are short by nature, linking offers a chance to get more information to representatives, he said.

Stakeholders working to connect with lawmakers online are on the right track, says Bradford Fitch, president and CEO at Congressional Management Foundation, a nonprofit that works to improve congressional operations and enhance citizen engagement through research, publications, training and management services. He published a study in 2011 that surveyed senior managers and social media managers in congressional offices about their perception of social media. Sixty-four percent said social media was either important or very important for understanding the views of constituents. 

“It’s a fast-growing trend,” said Fitch. “There’s an interest and an appetite to understand constituents’ views and communicate representatives’ views to the public.”

Some providers are already using social media in their lobbying efforts. Alpine Home Medical uses Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to inform patients about competitive bidding and other industry issues. 

“We feel strongly that you need to be politically involved,” said Briana Lake, marketing coordinator. “It’s important patients know what’s going on because it affects them.”

Corey Clonts, operations manager at Sullivan, Mo.-based LTC Providers, has just started using Twitter to lobby, but so far, he’s encouraged that people are retweeting, or sharing, his posts. 

“It’s the quickest way to get information out there,” he said. “If patients follow me and see these posts, then they can ask me questions.”

While social media is an important part of promoting industry issues, nothing replaces personal connections when it comes to members of Congress, stakeholders say.

“There really isn’t any silver bullet,” said Michael Reinemer, vice president of communications and policy at AAHomecare. “But nothing beats the old-fashioned relationship and trust that’s built over years.”