Social Healthcare: How Do You Stack Up?

There’s no denying the fact that social media and healthcare can make strange bedfellows. After all, the former is all about sharing — some would say oversharing — while the latter is predicated on treating privacy as a sacred trust. Factor in the potential legal exposure that can result from mixing them indiscriminately and it’s no wonder that the industry lags other sectors when it comes to embracing social interaction.

Or does it? The fact is that reports that scold healthcare providers for not participating in social media may be painting the picture with too broad a brush. True, some organizations still resist engaging patients via social but a recent study by UBM Tech suggests others are embracing it and reaping the benefits. Whichever side of the social divide you’re on, the data provide insightful benchmarks on how you stack up. Here’s what they found:

Maintaining a social presence is becoming mainstream but engagement is still an issue:

  • 53% of respondents said they had “some presence” on social media, i.e., a presence on at least one social network but limited engagement with their target audience
  • 47% said they had a “good deal of activity” on social media, i.e., a presence on multiple social networks and regular engagement with their target audience

Effectiveness is in the eye of the beholder:

  • More than half (51%) believe their efforts in social media are effective but still have room for improvement
  • 18% believe they’re not doing a good job handling social media
  • 17% believe their efforts are very effective

Social is still seen as a communications/marketing tool, not a business one. When asked how their organization used social, respondents said:

  • To attract new patients or customers: 69%
  • To disseminate health information: 57%
  • To monitor the organization’s reputation: 46%
  • To gather data that will guide business decisions: 23%
  • To understand what competitors are doing: 19%
  • To schedule appointments: 12%

The report goes on to note that many healthcare organizations remain concerned about the challenges (security, privacy, regulatory, etc.) posed by social media. Nevertheless, most expect to invest more resources in it going forward:

  • 45% plan to increase their use of social media without increasing staff and/or budget
  • 15% plan to increase their staff and/or budget for social media
  • 38% plan to keep their use of social media at current levels
  • 2% plan to decrease their use of social media

Put it all together and it’s clear that forward-thinking healthcare organizations are realizing the integral role social media can play in communicating and engaging with patients — a trend that’s only going to accelerate as time goes on. As survey respondent Jeremy Solly, manager of social media for Cambia Health Solutions, puts it,

Healthcare is at the beginning of a journey of disruption. With advances in technology, shifts in our culture, and recent changes to the healthcare industry, [we] can no longer continue to conduct business as usual. I think we will only continue to see more implementation of technology to improve the healthcare experience, and social media is part of that mix.

Doctor Takeaway

The choice is clear: Get social or get left behind

While the risks that social media can entail are real, the bigger risk lies in staying out of the conversation for the simple reason that social is where millions of patients go to conduct their aesthetic research. At the same time, younger providers — i.e., doctors who came of age in the Internet era and “get” social media — are rapidly becoming a dominant force in the field. The combination means that not only are those doctors more likely to engage with potential patients at the beginning of their aesthetic journeys; they’re also more likely to be there at the end.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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