Healthcare meets Social Media!

Healthcare Meets Social Media
I am reminded of an ad I watched the other day which said, “There comes a point in life when instead of picking movies based on reviews, you pick doctors!” Not that we never sought recommendations for doctors earlier. But it is all digital now. Check reviews, recommendations, and ratings and then make your decision, instantly. Welcome to the world of healthcare in social media!
Social media provides easy and straightforward communication between the patients and service providers, with the convenience of time and place. It encourages honest opinion and ensures anonymity. More importantly, it provides them instant gratification. Users get immediate answers and solutions to their questions and problems. For a medium as real time as social media, even a delay in receiving answers would perhaps not be more than a day. People connect with people, who have similar issues. Social media enables the emotional support that people often seek.
The story is not one sided. According to a study published in Adweek, over 1,500 US hospitals have official accounts on various social networking sites. In a survey of 485 doctors, 60% believed that social media can increase the quality of care they provide. Around 24% of the survey sample used social media to post or seek medical information. The larger picture of US healthcare reflects 5,000 US health organisations with social media accounts.
According to an estimate, 74% of U.S. adult online users use social media. The younger generation are early adopters. They use social media for research purposes and to make health decisions. These decisions include the choice of their physician, hospitals and even courses of treatment for both themselves and their family, including their parents. These consumers are well-informed in social media and expect their providers to be equally adept. It represents a huge opportunity. Healthcare professionals can create informative content that can be readily consumed.
Let’s take a look at a few examples on how the healthcare industry is currently utilising social media.

Knowledge Sharing

Providers use blogs to educate patients with increasing focus on preventive care as a method to reduce cost. Also, they use blogs as a tool for customer rating and feedback. Some organizations allow users to blog about their experience. Prospective customers consider a high value in peer review as compared to company generated content.

Recruiting

The healthcare industry requires a different level of specialized skills; recruiters are hence moving to more targeted social media channels such as LinkedIn, news and information platforms focussed on healthcare, healthcare blogs and so on. Since most of the target audience is under 30 years of age and are extremely social media savvy, reaching out to them through the platforms they are most active on provides better ROI.

Marketing and communications

Social media is used as a tool to reach out to target audiences across various industries. Healthcare is no exception. The medium is used to create brand awareness, generate leads, informing and educating consumers about new products and services. It needs highly relevant content that the audiences can easily relate to.
From live tweets during a bypass surgery to creating a social community for expecting mothers, healthcare industry has already begun its journey towards an integrated healthcare ecosystem. Social media remains an integral part this network. Ignoring it will only lead to loosing out crucial consumer touch points.