Social Media in Healthcare – A Strong Value Proposition

Social Media is number one reason why people use internet today. Consumers are increasingly turning to social media to educate themselves, give feedback on products and engage with other consumers. According to a PWC consumer survey, nearly one third of the people surveyed use social media for health related discussions. Here are a few more findings from the study-

  • 45% of the participants would seek second opinion based on health information found on social media
  • 75% would want a response within a day to requests initiated via social media
  • 33% of the consumers are ready to have their social media health interactions monitored, provided they get something in return

Given above data points the influence of social is far reaching and organizations can no longer be passive participants. In fact, the biggest risk with social now is ignoring it. Until now healthcare sector has been essentially using social platforms for listening with little activity on the engagement front. With early adopters such as Aetna, Mayo Clinic, Johnson & Johnson demonstrating the benefits of social engagement, this is fast changing. Group Worldwide Chairman, Johnson & Johnson, Sandra Peterson states – “We fundamentally changed our approach to marketing to put social at the core. Yes, we still do TV advertising, but everything we do now has to be social”. Clearly, the case for social is very strong. Here are some of the ways of healthcare organizations can augment social in their current business strategy:

Monitor

One clear advantage of social media is that the data is real time. Understanding this data enables firms to get the pulse of the market. For instance pharma companies can track adverse events, physicians can monitor patient activity and payers can gauge the general sentiment of their brand. Monitoring social media also helps companies to pinpoint any particular negative publicity and therefore address it quickly.

Respond

While monitoring allows listening, it is responding that helps engage stakeholders. As social media allows real-time monitoring, it is now possible to respond quickly to queries, concerns and feedbacks generated by consumers. Patient population is very active on social portals that help them book appointments, rate services and share experiences in their social circle. Physician participation on these portals will not only help them manage their own reputation but also curb misinformation to spread.

Amplify

Social media acts like a megaphone. It has the capacity to transcend boundaries and reach millions within a short span of time. Healthcare stakeholders should take advantage of this aspect by identifying influencers and utilizing their clout to reach target audience. For example – patients are most likely to trust their physicians. Hence payers & pharma companies can get doctors to endorse their brands on social media to reach a wider consumer base.

Lead

Using social, healthcare stakeholders can lead patients to promote behavioural changes. Social healthcare mobile apps are combining gamification concepts to ensure users stick to their fitness routines.  Payers can use this data to link to insurance premiums charged to their customers. Crowdsourcing is another application of social in which firms can create platforms to encourage patients/consumers to contribute ideas to improve current offerings and get rewards in return.

Although incorporating social media in business strategy looks very promising, it is not without hurdles. There are legal, technical and regulatory roadblocks that need to be taken care of for social to work in the healthcare space. In my subsequent blog posts I will write more about how each stakeholder in the healthcare arena can benefit from social and also the challenges they may face in the process.

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