Social media now plays an important role in consumer health education. Around 25% consumers now use social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and online forums for health-related matters. Social Media is also useful in seeking medical information, tracking and sharing symptoms, and broadcasting how they feel about doctors, drugs, treatments, medical devices and health plans. It is the wave of the future. I have been in the healthcare field for over 20 years and am pleased to see this new trend emerging. I am sure that social media is here to stay. The possibilities are endless! Just look at Minneapolis Children’s Hospital.
It’s hard to ignore this explosive growth the following are some platforms and channels:
• Website & Blogging/Micro Blogging (Twitter)
• Social Networks (Facebook, Google+, 100’s of others)
• Social Bookmarking (Digg, Delicious)
• Photo Sharing (Flickr, Pinterest, Instagram)
• Video Sharing: (YouTube, Vimeo)
• Public Comments on Websites
There are some legal issues and HIPPA concerns you are advised to closely adhere to:
• Do not offer specific, individualized medical advice
• Never include actual full patient names, even in response to input or questions
• Monitor your social platforms regularly for offensive behavior and remove inappropriate comments
• Include a medical disclaimer
Social media focuses on three important areas:
• Informing. Via the consistent delivery of useful information.
• Engaging. Via regular interaction with consumers and organizations sharing an affinity and interest for advancing integrative healthcare.
• Listening. By discovering what your current and prospective patients are saying about your center—and acting on this information to ensure quick and exceptional customer service
You can start by setting up a Google Alerts “listening post.” Simply enter up to 10 search terms and how often you would like an alert delivered to your inbox. You can increase patient volume with a smart social media strategy, but it takes time and commitment. Remember the engagement process through sharing relevant and useful information.. Social media is for educating, engaging, and storytelling. This can all be forms of discreet, tactful selling.
Also remember that you don’t have to be everywhere! Choose your channels carefully. Identify and target where your audience is spend most of their time online. Typically, three good places to start are Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. And bear in mind, a portion of your patrons and prospects still prefer to consume their content the old fashion way, ink on paper.
Don’t forget about POLICY!
A good Social Media Policy spells out exactly what sort of activities it covers, then goes on to instruct employees on the form of expression, necessity of observing privacy and other organizational guidelines, friend request policies, prohibition on endorsements and general guidelines on propriety. Just remember to cover all the bases without being unnecessarily wordy or complex.
Interesting Health Statistics
1. More than 40% of consumers say that information found via social media affects the way they deal with their health. (source: Mediabistro)
2. 18 to 24 year olds are more than 2x as likely than 45 to 54 year olds to use social media for health-related discussions. (source: Mediabistro)
3. 90% of respondents from 18 to 24 years of age said they would trust medical information shared by others on their social media networks. (source: Search Engine Watch)
4. 31% of health care organizations have specific social media guidelines in writing. (source: Institute for Health)
5. 19% of smartphone owners have at least one health app on their phone. Exercise, diet, and weight apps are the most popular types. (source: Demi & Cooper Advertising and DC Interactive Group)
6. From a recent study, 54% of patients are very comfortable with their providers seeking advice from online communities to better treat their conditions. (source: Mediabistro)
7. 31% of health care professionals use social media for professional networking. (source: MedTechMedia)
8. 41% of people said social media would affect their choice of a specific doctor, hospital, or medical facility. (source: Demi & Cooper Advertising and DC Interactive Group)
9. 30% of adults are likely to share information about their health on social media sites with other patients, 47% with Why this matters: This statistic shows that social media can be a vehicle to help scale both positive and negative word of mouth, which makes it an important channel for an individual or organization in the health care industry to focus on in order to attract and retain patients. Consumers are using social media to discuss everything in their lives including health and it is up toctors, 43% with hospitals, 38% with a health insurance company and 32% with a drug company. (source: Fluency Media)
10. 26% of all hospitals in the US participate in social media. (source: Demi & Cooper Advertising and DC Interactive Group)
11. The most accessed online resources for health related information are: 56% searched WebMD, 31% on Wikipedia, 29% on health magazine websites, 17% used Facebook, 15% used YouTube, 13% used a blog or multiple blogs, 12% used patient communities, 6% used Twitter and 27% used none of the above. (source: Mashable)
Why this matters: Understanding where a majority of consumer health information comes from is important way of knowing of its value, credibility and reliability. It is important to differentiate sources of quality content from other less desirable sources of info.
12. Parents are more likely to seek medical answers online, 22% use Facebook and 20% use YouTube. Of non-parents, 14% use Facebook and 12% use YouTube to search for health care related topics. (source: Mashable)
So remember folks Social media is the wave of the future! Let’s jump on!