Use of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media outlets is up at hospitals and health systems surveyed in a study released Oct. 4 by the CSC Global Institute for Emerging Healthcare Practices. But hospitals are using social media mainly to help build their brands ratherthan impact treatment or patient outcomes, the study found.

CSC, which describes itself as a global, technology-focused consulting firm, surveyed 36 U.S. hospitals and health systems in July and August on their use of social media. While more than 70 percenthad adopted social media in some form, a great majority of those (60-70 percent) said their main priority in using social media was marketing-oriented.

"Just one organization indicated that it uses social media to aid in care coordination and/or care management," the study reported. Another top social media use for hospitals was delivery of general health information to users.

The majority of hospitals that have adopted social media appear to be taking steps to ensure responsible use, at least with respect to employees. Three quarters of the health organizations surveyed had policy in place regarding staff use of social media.

More than one-third of those responding on behalf of the health systems said they did not know if their social media site had a disclaimer that information shared on the site did not constitute medical advice. More than a quarter said their social media site contained no such disclaimer.

Health systems should begin using social media to connect patients to providers and inform product development, the study found. "Having built familiarity and comfort with basic social media use, it is now time for hospitals to use social media in a more advanced way to achieve their strategic goals," the study recommended.

Copyright 2012, The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc.