Seeing a steady rise in the incidence of dementia and understanding the significant burdens on families caring for dementia patients, Mount Sinai turned to social media to engage caregivers and provide them with a private, safe, and compassionate forum to validate, share, and learn from each other with the benefit of professional, clinical expertise from the hospital’s highly ranked geriatric practice.
The challenges were four-fold: defining the offering, identifying and reaching the target population, aligning the program with existing infrastructure and positioning and producing or curating relevant, accurate and useful content. Facebook Groups was chosen as a platform that would be familiar to the target population which could be easily configured and gated for privacy. Adult children of dementia patients, mostly women, were identified as those carrying the heaviest caregiving burdens, often sandwiched between caring for aging parents and growing children. Key staff were allocated to the project by the hospital and veteran community managers were assigned to monitor and moderate the conversations. Building the project took 5 months.
In the course of creating the community, a detailed response library and escalation protocol was developed. Contingencies for a wide range of prospective inputs and reactions were created. A compelling name and graphic treatment as well as a complex plan for recruiting members was hammered out. All of this activity was conducted during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic which stretched Mount Sinai to its capacity in terms of patient care and available beds.
In the first 100 days from launch 600 individuals joined the community. Participation in terms of original posts and questions asked and answered were dramatically higher than industry benchmarks, reaching 30-50% of members actively engaged. Town hall sessions with medical specialists were oversubscribed and genuine, accurate information and emotional response was routinely exchanged. When a quiz was introduced, 5% of members sought to find a Mount Sinai doctor or set an appointment with one thereby generating new service line revenue and a measure of brand affinity or loyalty.
Since then, steady growth of the community, which is over 1000 members in the New York DMA, has drawn frequent participation and frequent praise from members and medical professionals. The community continues to provide practical, medical, and emotional support to adult children of dementia patients.