One-third of consumers are currently using social media for health-related matters, but is the doctor in on Facebook and Twitter? A new study by the PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute shows that health organizations that ignore social media may be missing out on an important opportunity to engage patients and consumers through enhanced service, support and information.
The report, Social Media “Likes” Healthcare: From Marketing to Social Business, provides insights from a survey of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers, 124 members of the eHealth Initiative and 30+ interviews with industry executives.
Some key takeaways:
- 70% of consumers said they would appreciate receiving assistance with referrals and appointments from healthcare providers via social media.
- 69% would value post-discharge support and money saving offers via social media.
- 61% say they are likely to trust information posted by providers on social media.
- One-third said they would be willing to have their social conversations monitored if that data could help them identify ways to improve their health or better coordinate care.
- More than 40% said that information found on social media would affect the way they coped with a chronic condition or their approach to diet and exercise.
The Next Generation of Social Patients
The age of respondents played a significant role in the survey, showing that for younger consumers, social media engagement would be a natural extension of their healthcare experience:
- More than 80% of respondents ages 18 – 24 would be likely to share health information through social media.
- 90% would engage in health activities or trust information from healthcare providers on social media.
These numbers are significantly higher than any other age group and show a growing opportunity for the healthcare industry. Says Laura Clapper, chief medical officer of the online community OneRecovery, in the PwC report: “As more people go online to interact with their banks and make purchases, they want to do this with their doctors, health plans, and condition and disease management, as well.”
Shopping Around for Healthcare
And just as connected consumers are using the web to shop around for the best deals and reviews of products, hotels, restaurants and services, they are starting to do this with healthcare, as well. The report states that 17% of respondents have posted reviews of doctors on social media, and 42% have used social media to access consumer reviews of physicians, healthcare facilities, treatments and more. Mercy Hospital is even creating an app that helps individuals “share” their doctors’ contact information on Facebook.
Social Media Makes Healthcare More Human
Listening to sentiment, participating in conversations and engaging patients and customers with quality content and service on social media fosters corporate trust and credibility, which is why healthcare is following other industries in moving their social media venues from a marketing/promotion only vehicle to a full-service channel for support, service and improved communication.
“Companies need to use health-oriented versus product-oriented social media,” says Greg Simon, former senior vice president of patient engagement at Pfizer. “They need to start communicating with the patient need in mind.”
The Empowered Social Patient
The report also notes that many patients are turning to Twitter and other public social media platforms to complain about healthcare costs, hard-to-understand instructions, wait times and more, which through proactive social media monitoring and response by healthcare institutions can effectively be addressed to aid not only in reputation management but to improve business processes. As a business or an individual’s digital identity becomes increasingly synonymous with their public identity, healthcare and related institutions must introduce processes for social media monitoring and response to ensure positive public perception.
Social Media “Likes” Healthcare: From Marketing to Social Business provides an insightful look at what consumers would like to see from their healthcare providers on social media and sets an initial course of instruction for healthcare institutions, pharmaceutical and life sciences businesses and health insurers to follow in integrating social media as a business process.
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