Combining Health Care & Social Media

Combining Health Care & Social Media

Facebook and Twitter have infiltrated nearly every aspect of our lives.  Why should we be surprised to learn that social media is now influencing the health care system too?  The connection between health organizations and patients is quickly evolving into a technical relationship.

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While they may have been reluctant at first, hospitals have since moved beyond initial experimentation to fully embracing the idea of social media marketing.  Like many other companies, hospitals now use social media to engage patients and share about the services they provide.  Health care providers are recognizing that online community is a great way to offer additional support to patients and build relationships.  They write blogs with daily health-related topics, engage in patient forums, publicize upcoming events, and share the gratifying notes from past patients.

But Facebook and blogs aren’t the only resources hospitals are using to reach patients.  Twitter is practically bursting at the seams with health care related hash tags.  There is even a website called The Healthcare Hashtag Project which tracks this social media phenomenon.

Not only are social media outlets being used for marketing endeavors – they are being used for research purposes too.  For example, a research institute may write a post looking for volunteers with a specific medical condition.

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We all know there is an app for just about everything under the sun.  We also know that more people than not are addicted to sites like Twitter and Facebook.  Therefore, it doesn’t come as a surprise that there is now a marriage between these two concepts – and that it ties into health and fitness.  Many apps on mobile devices communicate directly with a person’s social media account.  For example, a person may use an app to track and log a jogging route.  Then, he or she posts the information directly to Facebook.  Or, a diabetic may transmit a blood sugar reading to an online community.

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We’ve noticed that health care providers are fans of using social media, but it now appears that patients like the idea too.  It is natural for a person to turn to family and friends in times of distress.  Many people seek the support and compassion of loved ones after receiving a diagnosis.  Now, it seems that patients are seeking support from online “friends” too.

At first glance, it may seem odd to share personal medical information in such a public arena.  However, a closer look reveals it isn’t that strange of an idea.  For starters, patients with a rare disease can connect with other sufferers who may live on the other side of the country or even in distant lands.  In fact, at least a quarter of the participants form a recent study reported they went searching online for other patients with the same diagnosis.

The 2012 PwC HRI Social Media Consumer Survey presented a myriad of statistics that show just how supportive people are of this idea; it seems the majority of people are a fan of linking social media and patient health.

In the group of 18-24 year old participants, 54% admitted to making posts on their social medial account about recent health experiences or health updates.  Additionally, 55% of participants in this age group say they support a health-related cause via social media and 44% have gone so far as to join the cause.

The majority of this young demographic (56%) also claim they would willingly share information about their health with other patients.  They feel just as comfortable sharing with doctors, hospitals, health insurance companies, drug companies, and pharmacies in an online community.

Not only are these patients sharing their personal experiences online, they often turn to online sources to gather their health advice too.  There was a varying level of trust given to the source of the information; only 36% of participants would accept advice from people they didn’t know as opposed to 63% appreciating advice from people they were acquainted with.  However, a staggering amount of participants would willingly turn to hospitals, doctors, nurses, health insurance companies, drug companies, patient advocacy organizations, government organizations, and gyms or fitness centers for advice in an online community.

Talking About This

It is probable this topic has stirred up some controversy.  Are health care providers going too far?  Will they stop at nothing to bring in the big-ticket medical procedures?  Should we trust online information from “health professions?”  Is it safe to share so much personal health information on public sites like Facebook and Twitter?  Do you share your health information online?  Do you think there will be a varying opinion among age demographics?

Guest blogger Logan Clement does internet marketing for Subtle Network. While he is a fan of all marketing strategies, he still has mixed feelings about the marriage between social media and health care.  

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