Health Care in the Realm of Social Media

In light of social media, relationships between patients and providers have seemed to improve for the better. In this new era of technology, there is potential for relevant and authentic communication between the health care field and patients. There are those in the health care system who recognize these advantages and are willing to recruit individuals who will support and positively advertise their services.

Today, and increasing number of people use technology to direct health care concerns. According to the Pew Research Center, one in three American adults use online websites to help with medical issues. Also, according to Mediabistro, 45% of consumers look up reviews for health care providers treatments and products, 23% of users on social media follow friends’ experiences or updates. With all these increasing stats about social media directing patients decisions on health care, it is interesting that only 26% of all hospitals in the United States participate in social media.

Healthcare

Here are some pointers about social media and health care from experts:

  • Social media is changing the patient communication model:
    • Social media is giving a voice to those who feel voiceless by the health care system
    • It demonstrates that there is a small percentage of patients who want to become part of the overall health care system
    • It displays consumer’s demand for transparency from health care providers
      • Individuals trust doctors (relationships) more than hospitals, health insurances, or drug companies (systems) on social media sites
    • The number of doctors participating on social media is still relatively small compared to the number of practicing physicians
  • Accountable steps health care providers can take to address and rectify mistakes:
    • Once a mistake is identified, act decisively to correct it
    • Avoid using social media to communicate with patients about sensitive issues, even if it is a private message
    • Use social media in communications with staff and community
  • Why transparency is important:
    • The increasing demand for patient groups to play more meaningful roles in patient/provider relationship
    • Social media has shifted patient empowerment from individuals to groups
    • Access to information becomes easier the stronger the relationship is between patient and provider. Many providers are not adequately prepared to deal with information requests because of the barriers of HIPPA laws and malpractice claims
    • The presence of health care providers on social media still remains significantly low
  • Hospital preparedness to address positive/negative patient social media communication:
    • Depends on the hospital
      • Larger hospitals usually have the staffing and resources to address positive and negative comments posted by patients in a timely manner
      • Smaller hospitals usually do not have the staff or resources to have a social media action plan

Summary:

We need to have a plan to determine how to deal with social media communication, including all realistic scenarios. This is critical to effective and timely responses. This new social environment, which can create new issues for health care systems, is not going away anytime soon.

Hospitals can be proactive by:

  • Creating a culture of accountability that is collective for the health care system
  • Helping bring a community of people who will advocate on the health care system’s behalf because of the benefits it brings to the community
  • Making a commitment in messaging: making a systematic approach to communicating through social media
  • Having definitive goals before starting any campaign on social media