Social Media in Healthcare: How to Harness the Marketing Opportunity

January 14, 2013
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Social Media: Part One

Social Media: Part One

[First of a two-part post.] Social media (SM) has swiftly engrained itself in nearly every corner of contemporary culture and daily living. And that includes healthcare where, among other things, the various social media platforms have become a significant agent for change.

Fundamentally, social media is changing the nature and speed of healthcare interaction between consumers (mainly patients) and health organizations (providers). Social media—chiefly Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs—is impossible (and ill advised) to ignore.

Who’s using what…

It’s tempting to think that easy-to-use SM platforms are also easy to understand in terms of their marketing value. The surprising truth is that, other than the most famous few “big names,” most people would be hard pressed to name even half of the 15 most popular social networking sites. (For comparison, there are nearly 200 social sites in this Wikipedia list.)

Although healthcare has been slower on the adoption curve than other business and service sectors, hospitals have been engaging consumers via social media. Globally, American hospitals are “in the mid-range of adoption,” among nations studied by CSC Global Institute for Emerging Healthcare Practices.

“Within the United States, large, urban, academic, and pediatric hospitals are leading the way in social media. For example, 42 percent of US hospitals with 400 or more beds use social media, compared to 15 percent of facilities with fewer than 70 beds. Among major teaching hospitals, 58 percent have adopted social media vs. 16 percent of nonteaching hospitals.

“CSC compares these figures to a global survey of the top 100 Fortune 500 companies. Most reported having a presence on Twitter (65 percent), Facebook (54 percent), and YouTube (50 percent), and a third (33 percent) indicated having a corporate blog.” [Survey: Social Media Use by U.S. Hospitals and Health Systems.]

What patients want…

Social media is empowering and educating patients, and perhaps most significantly, learning about their needs.

Patients derive value from social media tools as a means to managing their own healthcare, according to an in-depth survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute (PwC/HRI), and they want more. “When asked what services they would find valuable if offered on social media,” American Medical News reported:

  • 72% of patients said availability of appointments,
  • 71% said appointment reminders, and
  • 70% said referral to specialists.

Further, “a third said they would be comfortable having their social media conversations monitored if it would help them identify ways to improve their health and better coordinate care.

How hospitals and medical practices can benefit…

The American Medical Association identified several social media opportunity areas for healthcare providers. These include:

  • Listening to people to reveal needed services
  • Provide patient-trusted information posted by physicians
  • Identify areas for improved customer service
  • Gather feedback on medications; efficacy and side effects
  • Comparison to competition to identify quality improvement areas

The post continues in Part Two, with more about the features, advantages and benefits of social media in healthcare.


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