Social Health, The New Frontier

Numerous articles have been written about the importance of healthcare providers to increase visibility on social media, connect with consumers on social media or maybe, engage the consumer using social media. While most of the doctors describe the online healthcare information seeker as ill informed, there are chances that a patient has seen or heard of something that the doctor hasn’t, that’s the competence of today’s digital information seeker.

With macro trends like higher internet speeds and availability of the internet on mobile, newer devices including wearables, people now rely on online mediums for information regarding any specific disease or medical problem, medical treatment or procedure, diet, nutrition and fitness information. It is very common to see posts from exercise routines, runs or grooming techniques on social media. There is a movement towards a healthier tomorrow and social media has invariably imbued it with easy and quick access to information dissemination, consumption and communication. Information found via social media affects the way people deal with their health, social media will affect the choice of their doctor, hospital or medical facility.

Moreover, a growing category of healthcare consumers are becoming more comfortable in not just looking for health-related information online, but also in sharing information about their condition as well. People are likely to go online to find specific advice and avoid actually visiting a hospital until it becomes serious. Social media is rapidly becoming the preferred channel for all stakeholders in the healthcare eco system to converse and communicate, be it doctor to patient, patient to patient or even doctor to doctor. It is very common today to see doctors asking patients to send reports over tools like Whatsapp. Over time, social media will become so ubiquitous that it will be considered part of routine healthcare operations and consumers’ day-to-day lives. This is what is referred to as “Social Health.” by experts.

The online healthcare consumer’s network on social media is a group of people that is well trusted, which again, presents an opportunity to connect with them as health care professional in a new and authentic way.

Some of the use cases that have emerged out of need are social media being used in times of urgency, like maybe blood donation or disaster relief, doctors and patients both writing blogs, communities discussing healthcare and doctors or hospitals using social media for patient education

If you are a healthcare provider, here are some things you can on social media if you haven’t already started.

Share content and information on social media (improved communication)

Healthcare professionals have a moral responsibility to create educational content to be shared across social media that will help precisely inform consumers about health related issues. Reliability of information is most important in a sensitive topic like healthcare and it is vital that information is shared by well-informed / authorized sources. The opinions of others on social media are often trusted but aren’t always the right solutions or critical sources of insights, especially when it comes to a subject as sensitive as health which is hyper local. Services like online consultation, availability of appointments/ doctors, buying medication can be done through social media; you can book an appointment with a tweet!

Monitor Social Media

Hospitals should be monitoring social media to find out where on the web their consumers are reaching out and be omnipresent to answer any questions. A good social media monitoring strategy and online reputation management strategy will be the yardstick for a provider’s Internet strategy and should point out trends for engagement, social properties where conversation is happening, and help providers stay on top thereby maintaining a positive sentiment online. Social media will be the vehicle to help scale both positive and negative word of mouth, which makes it an important medium for an individual or organization in the health care industry to focus on in order to attract and retain patients. Consumers are using social media to discuss everything in their lives including health and it is up to your organization to choose whether it’s time to tune in.

Personalized healthcare tools

Providers can create a lot of good will by offering patients a variety of educational resources and a symptom checker to help them determine whether they need medical attention. It also gives patients access to their records and lets them make appointments and refill prescriptions online. Smartphone apps that encourage two-way communication are the need of the hour. The recently launched Google Fit and Microsoft Band gamifies activity and you can you can keep a check and push yourself to attain your healthcare goals.

Patient Support Groups

Some large medical centres now have online support programs that let patients with the same disease share experiences and outcomes with each other and support each other in health-specific communities. By introducing social media to patients with chronic illness, it offers a place to articulate emotions. This will also result in increased use of social media by the older citizens to share stories and gather emotional support. If you are a healthcare provider that still does not have health specific communities or patient to patient support groups on social media, it is time you started it.

In conclusion, healthcare organizations need to understand how the chatter in the social media universe can be utilized meaningfully to grow business and brand visibility. While some organizations have taken the lead in this area, many others are finding it difficult to understand this new world of opportunity. Presence on social media is no longer an option today, it is a necessity. If healthcare organizations do not make attempts to adopt this medium, they run the risk of becoming stagnant and perhaps obsolete in the long run.