Social Media

A survey conducted by Pricewaterhouse Cooper asked more than 1000 patients and more than 100 healthcare executives what they thought of the way healthcare companies utilize social media.

The results may surprise you.

In the past, as people started feeling sick, they would turn to a relative for advice or visit the doctor. Today, many patients turn to the Internet for information. A few clicks of the keyboard and you can find an overload of information.

Actually, you don't even need a keyboard anymore. Ask you smartphone or mention a few symptoms to your smart speaker. Both feature voice-activated digital assistants that enable interaction with various systems online.

"Hey, Alexa" (Amazon Echo), or "Hey, Google" (Google Home), or "Hey, Siri" (Apple HomePod):

What causes these symptoms ...

How do I treat ...

Unfortunately, much of the information out there is not reliable.

“The problem is, you can’t trust everything you read online,” Kevin Pho, founder of KevinMd.com, says. “For instance, consider that fewer than half of websites offered accurate facts on sleep safety for infants, or that pro-anorexia websites were shared more frequently on YouTube.”

How are people sifting through the vast amounts of information to determine what is credible?

The answer? Social media.

Social media plays a key role. It helps people determine what information to believe.

Instead of calling Mom, the go-to-caregiver from childhood, people turn to social media. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn make it easy connect for opinions and advice. Their networks of friends, family, and colleagues make up a resource they can access at any time; a resource they can trust.

The information may still be wrong, but it is much easier to trust:

  • a friend who had similar symptoms a few weeks ago;
  • a co-worker who had a bad experience with a particular doctor;
  • or a cousin who is in the medical field.

It might even be easier to trust a casual acquaintance than a faceless organization. These connections formed through social media impact how people view their health care.

How important is it for physicians and medical organizations to have a social media presence?

Take this quiz and see how well you know the numbers on social media in health care.

Social Media Stats - A Look at the Numbers

Statistics compiled for getreferralmd.com in the article "30 Facts & Statistics On Social Media And Healthcare." Visit the article for a number of great takeaways to help you or your organization make use of social media.

  • 42% of individuals viewing health information on social media look at health-related consumer reviews.
  • 32% of US users post about their friend's and family’s health experiences on social media.
  • 29% of patients viewing health information through social media are viewing other patients’ experiences with their disease.
  • Of all the individuals viewing healthcare information on social media, 24% are viewing health-related videos/images posted by patients.
  • 74% of Internet users engage on social media; 80% of those Internet users are specifically looking for health information, and nearly half are searching for information about a specific doctor or health professional.
  • Information on social media can have a direct influence on patients’ decisions to seek a second opinion or choose a specific provider, particularly for people who are coping with a chronic condition or managing their diet, exercise, or stress.
  • Some of the most engaged and active audiences on social media are people who have recently experienced a medical emergency or who are coping with a disability or chronic condition, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes.
  • 60% of consumers say they trust doctors’ posts versus 36% who trust posts from a pharmaceutical firm.
  • 50% of healthcare apps available to consumers can be downloaded for free and are produced by a variety of developers.
  • 27% of patients comment or post status updates based on health-related experiences.
  • 88% of physicians use the Internet and social media to research pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical devices.
  • Out of the 5,624 hospitals in the United States, only 1,501 are using a form of social media, which equates to approximately 26%.
  • 72% of all Internet users are active social media users.
  • 43% of baby boomers are starting to leverage social media for healthcare-related information.
  • There are 27.4 million people over the age of 55 engaged in social networking, and 19 million of those use Facebook.
  • 53% of physician practices in the United States have a Facebook page.
  • 16% of Facebook users post reviews of medication, treatments, doctors, or insurers.
  • 18-24 year-olds are more than two times as likely than 45-54 year-olds to use social media for health-related discussions.
  • 30% of adults are likely to share information about their health on social media sites with other patients, 47% with doctors, 43% with hospitals, 38% with a health insurance company, and 32% with a drug company.
  • YouTube traffic to hospital sites has increased 119% each year.

Social media is an invaluable tool for communication, reputation building, and education, but it's not just for patient. Many medical professionals use it for research or to consult specialists.

Before jumping in with both feet, there are a few pitfalls:

  • Patient privacy is a major issue and medical professionals need to be careful about what they reveal. Privacy can be difficult to manage when the patients themselves slip up.

“When a family posts a comment about a medical issue, we like to encourage the family to email our general account. We do this for a couple of reasons: One, to protect that patient’s privacy, and two, it is easier to put the family in touch with the right person on our team for help,” - Amanda Mauck, Interactive Marketing Specialist

  • The blending of social and professional relationships is another area of concern. How social is too social? Many medical institutions limit social interaction with patients on personal accounts.

It's a balancing act. Through social media you can provide value to your patients or prospective patients, and you can educate and inform. You also can empathize and encourage, but at the same time you have to protect them and maintain privacy. You have to maintain professionalism.

It's clear that patients are using social media to help them make healthcare decisions. As a result, physicians and medical organizations need to be more strategic in how they manage their social presence.

Having defined guidelines in place is a great place to start.

 

Christopher Warden. Referral MD. 30 Facts & Statistics On Social Media And Healthcare. https://getreferralmd.com/2017/01/30-facts-statistics-on-social-media-and-healthcare. Published 1/30/2017. Accessed 7/11/2017.

Jam Kotenko. Digital Trends. The doctor will see you now: How the Internet and social media are changing healthcare. https://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/the-internet-and-healthcare. Published 6/19/2017. Accessed 7/11/2017.

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