Healthcare News & Insights

5 ways for healthcare organizations to get the most out of social media

People increasingly turn to social networks to research health issues, and healthcare organizations that don’t use those tools may be missing valuable opportunities to engage with patients and attract new ones. 

Social media is changing the way patients make care decisions and how patients and providers interact, according to a recent report from the Health Research Institute (HRI) at PwC.

Many patients are using social networks to research health information. Among the 1,000 individuals surveyed:

  1. One-third use sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to seek medical information, track and share symptoms , and share their opinions about doctors and treatments
  2. 42% have used social media to find reviews of doctors and treatments, and
  3. 29% have sought information about other patients’ experiences with a condition.

Social media activities also have a big impact on patients’ decisions:

  1. 45% of patients say their online research would affect their decision to get a second opinion
  2. 41% said it would affect their choice of doctor
  3. 34% said it would affect their decision to take a certain medication, and
  4. 32% said it would affect their choice of health insurance plan.

Bottom line: Patients are using social media to inform their care decisions, and healthcare organizations need to get on board to take advantage of these new marketing and engagement opportunities.

Here are some steps healthcare organizations can take to get the most out of social media:

1. Create a social media presence that allows for discussion — Many organizations may be reluctant to do so for fear of unfavorable comments, but patients are actually more likely to share positive experiences than negative ones, according to the report.

2. Educate current and potential patients — As the survey shows, people often turn to social networks to research conditions they have or think they might have. Therefore, offering educational materials through those networks is one way to get people’s attention.

3. Facilitate support groups — Another reason social networks are so popular for health-related use is that they allow patients to connect with others who are dealing with similar issues. Many of the providers interviewed by HRI have had success creating condition-specific online support groups for their patients.

4. Respond quickly — It’s not enough to create social networking profiles and forget about them. Staff must be actively engaged on those sites, as those new communication tools have raised expectations about how easy organizations will be to reach. For example, when asked how long they’d expect to wait for a response about an appointment request sent via social media, 75% of respondents said just a few hours.

5. Look at health-specific networks — In addition to popular social networking sites like Facebook, there are also many other niche networks specifically designed for doctors to connect with patients and each other. One example is Doximity, a site that serves as a HIPAA-secure communication platform to allow doctors to share information with their peers.

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