Beyond the Buzz: Healthcare Social Media

February 7, 2014
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social media in healthcare

social media in healthcare

Healthcare social media is more than just a marketing buzzword; as the Internet increasingly becomes the medium of choice for researching health information, social media has become an important channel for connecting with patients and disseminating and expanding the reach of healthcare information. Social media encompasses social networking sites (such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+), blogs, online communities, and user-generated content sites (such as YouTube and SlideShare). It is a radical shift in the way we communicate; the healthcare conversation is no longer a one-way narrative but is evolving into a global, participatory discussion facilitated by social media.

Perhaps you still remain uncovinced about whether it is really necessary or appropriate for healthcare to engage with social media? Consider this. One third of health consumers use social media sites to research health information, track and share symptoms and vocalize how they feel about their doctors, drugs, treatment plans, insurance and medical devices. Many say their choice of a specific doctor, hospital or medical treatment is influenced by social media. The fact is that patients are talking about you online whether you are there or not, so in the words of Bryan Vartabedian, M.D.: “Physicians have two choices, really. They can participate in the discussion that is happening online and frame the story, or they can let someone else frame the story for them.”

Healthcare social media is characterized by its immediacy, transparency and reach. This is the future of medicine, and the future is now. We have digitally savvy patients and doctors, hospital videos on YouTube, and surgeons live-tweeting surgery. Social media will continue to disrupt healthcare in ways we are only starting to understand. But in order to realize its full potential, all stakeholders need to contribute and participate. Farris Timimi, M.D., medical director for the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, maintains that social media “isn’t an addition to your job, [it] is part of your job.” He explains that social media “is where our patients are these days and this is where we need to reach them. We can engage learners, patients and peers, and we are not limited by geography or time.”

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But with so many social media platforms, how do you know where to start? Are all channels created equal? How can you spend your time on social media most effectively? And for those who have already taken the plunge into social media waters, how do you take your marketing to the next level?

In my new fortnightly column, I will share insights, practical tips and best practice on how you can use social media to achieve your healthcare goals. You will learn more about developing your own social networks, how to use social media to disseminate health messages, connect with your peers and follow the healthcare conversations that are important to you. With a new year now underway, this is the perfect time to hone your social media skills. 

Erik Qualman, an international keynote speaker on digital media and future trends, says, “We do not have a choice on whether we DO social media, the question is – HOW WELL WE DO IT.” Starting February 14, join me here on Health Works Collective to learn not only how to use social media in healthcare, but how to do it really well. 

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