If you think about it there was virtually no interaction between ordinary people and healthcare industry before launch of internet. With internet came several large healthcare platforms, but they were still not as interactive. This all changed with social media.
Healthcare industry has realized the potential of social media in building community engagement, fostering better relationships, strengthening the connection within the community for existing healthcare centers, patients and physicians, and attracting new followers and patients. In a nutshell social media has opened new avenues for health care industry to interact with their end consumers.
Let us study how healthcare industry is and can use internet and social media is today.
Benefits of Social Media for Healthcare Industry
The benefits of social media are many. To start with, you can say that social media is a kind of word-of-mouth advertising. Staying in touch with your patients always helps because if someone was to ask one of your patients to recommend a doctor or hospital, they will recommend their own hospital. And since advice from friends and family is almost always seriously taken, it is very likely that the hospital will now be making acquaintance with new patients.
Social media makes communication between businesses and consumers quick which is really helpful for pharmaceutical companies, medical supply companies and other medical businesses. When information regarding upcoming events or sales has to be sent at short notice, social media offers a fast and cheap way for communication.
Investing in social media costs very little and setting up an account is easy. Social media sites offer a great marketing and communication abilities. It can be used to build and develop a customer base and also to allow them to share their stories and experiences. Customers can sign up for events, download information and buy products online. Social media offers all these services and more for no cost.
Internet and Social Media Platforms for Healthcare industry
Interaction platforms for the healthcare industry can be broadly categorized into three types:
- There are some specialized and niche-oriented expert sites that allow patients to ask questions and their questions would be answered by medical professionals. Ex: WebMD, AskDrWiki.
- Sites that target people who have similar experiences to share and information to communicate. Such sites are also used by medical institutions to share ideas and disseminate information. Ex: Healthline, Revolution Health.
- Broader platforms like health blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc. that allow medical professionals to post informative content. These are the sites that are used extensively by medical institutes and hospitals to promote themselves.
Social Media for healthcare: Educating and Engaging People
Educating and Engaging people is the key role which social media can play today for healthcare institutions. This helps creating brand awareness and get customer feedback. There are various ways this can be done. Some of them are discussed here.
Blogs are the primary social media tool that may be used by the healthcare industry. Blogs can be used to engage and educate the masses with helpful tips and information ranging from how to avoid common cold to how to safely increase physical activity after surgery. Opinions on healthcare policy can be shared on the blog. Staff must be encouraged to actively participate in discussions on the blog. Blogs can be extensively used for sharing patient success stories and providing a local perspective on health trends. They can be used for highlighting technology used for a superior treatment and improved patient experience. By making sure to use appropriate keywords in the blog that prospective patients are likely to search for, you can market the blog well and increase its search rankings.
Care must be taken to not reveal any customer data.
With more and more patients willing to share their experiences at a hospital on social media, Facebook can be used a medical marketing tool for spreading positive reviews and word of mouth endorsements. Posts and comments by patients help to engage the community.
From the point of view of healthcare units, there needs to be a strategy in place to generate a consistent stream of content. The content must appeal to a wide audience and it should contain information regarding the practice, demonstrate practitioners’ expertise and highlight third party information. A healthcare institution should ensure that it’s page has consistent language and tone.
Twitter can be used to have question and answer sessions with patients and prospective patients. You can ask for feedbacks from patients. To the prospective patients you can ask what they expect from a doctor. You can even tweet about medical stats and facts to share information with your followers.
Videos used for social media marketing usually revolve around a central character or a small group of characters and send out a compelling message. Videos must be effective and engaging. They can be anything from ribbon cutting at a new facility to a short interview with a doctor. When these videos are posted on Youtube or other video sharing sites, they must be tagged appropriately to increase its search value. For extra publicity, videos can be embedded in news releases, e-blasts and other electronic communications to patients.
Social Media for Reaching out to doctors
Not just the patients, but doctors too have been using social media to grow their connections. In fact, there is an online community called Sermo exclusively for physicians. There are over 125000 medical professionals signed up on this site. Doctors through this site are able to share invaluable information and advanced knowledge in the medical field.
Leveraging LinkedIn as a healthcare professional
There are well over 1.5 million healthcare professionals on LinkedIn which include doctors, clinicians, researchers, administrative personnel, medical recruiters, and pharmaceutical and biotech workers and managers. It is free but for certain additional services a membership can be purchased. Members list themselves under various categories within the industry. Healthcare professionals can use this platform to connect with other professionals in the same line of work or specialty by joining one of the many groups there on LinkedIn such as Student Doctor Network, Medical Device Network, Physicians Alternative Career Network, healthcare physicians practice network, registered nurse group, Health informatics technology, etc. If there is no group matching your interest, you can start your own networking group. LinkedIn can also help when trying to find jobs. Proactively participating in the ‘Q&A’ section in LinkedIn will lead to many people interested in healthcare viewing your profile. You can even be recommended by supervisors and colleagues and this boosts your profile and increases your chances of being considered for a job.
Social media Success story: Mayo Clinic
The story of Mayo clinic in the social media is like no other. They have a Facebook page with over 4,00,000 ‘Likes’, Twitter handle with over 5,00,000 followers and a Youtube channel with close to 10 million views. The hospital uses each of the social media platforms effectively and they have many resources for patients. The Mayo clinic even goes as far as offering an in-depth social media training program for their employees covering all aspects of social media platforms.
Facebook: The Facebook page of Mayo clinic has a main page and many other pages for each of the departments. The main page has many sections. One section is the ‘recommendation’ section where patients can give their feedback. There is another section for patients to be able to post their questions. Both these sections are regularly answered. Affiliated organizations also sometimes answer questions. There is also a section where Mayo Clinic posts a lot of information and updates on seminars, conferences, etc.
Twitter: Twitter is used for carrying on conversations between healthcare professionals, non-healthcare individuals and patients, and sharing information about different ailments, healthy living, special events, projects, etc. Participants at conferences and seminars are encouraged to live tweet using specific hashtags so that discussions can continue even after the end of the event. Mayo clinic even has a Twitter handle posting job opportunities at the hospital.
Youtube: Mayo Clinic releases a lot of videos of interviews, lectures, seminars, patient testimonials, etc and posts them on Youtube under various classifications such as cancer, fitness and nutrition, gastrointestinal, patient stories and many more. The videos are clear, informative and professionally done.
Blog: Mayo Clinic has an extensive list of blogs. There is one blog where all scientific and medical stories and updates are shared. They also have a blog where patients and relatives share their stories; most of these stories are very touching.
Mayo Clinic Connect: This is Mayo Clinic’s own social media site connecting the global Mayo clinic community. The improvement here over Facebook is that it allows for a more customized look and a greater level of anonymity. This site even has discussion boards that mostly cover health or hospital related topics. But sometimes topics such as spirituality, dealing with disease associated stigmas, help with school projects, etc are also discussed. And then there is a section for latest in scientific and medical advancements. However the ultimate goal of this site is to allow users to interact with each other about their diseases and experience at Mayo Clinic. These interactions result in some of the users referring Mayo Clinic to other users and thus bringing in more patients.
While many in the healthcare tend to be cautious with the use of social media, there are few who totally avoid it. The reason for this caution is that medical practitioners are concerned about patients’ privacy which is understandable. There is a fear that social media compromises security. The doctors and hospitals will be required to monitor their employees to ensure that the employees don’t abuse the social media. They must see to it that all information shared is factually correct and does not in any way damage the image and reputation of the institution. And then there is the concern about charges of malpractice over a medical advice wrongly given through the social media. Even though doctors are generally careful about it, sometimes they fear the line between doctor and patient gets blurred in the social media.