Just like any other burgeoning industry, health care has been inundated by social media, but the increase in Internet marketing presents both a myriad of opportunities to reshape 21st century health care, and creates countless obstacles to implementation. It is a well-known fact that people today communicate through social media as never before. Indeed, more than 40% of consumers say that information found via social media affects the way they deal with their health (MediaBistro). Likewise, health care professionals, including doctors, technicians, and nurses, are increasingly using social media for professional development and networking. Once introduced to social media’s interactive means of treating patients, conferencing with colleagues, discussing treatment options, and recording patient information, doctors are rapidly embracing these telemedicine venues. The interest in website design, the need for integrating Internet marketing services and employing search engine optimization (SEO) tools have all driven health care providers to social media methods and suppliers.
Why Health Care’s Social Media Skills are Behind the Curve
Health care is, however, far behind the curve in utilizing the power and pervasiveness of social media, for a variety of reasons. The primary reasons for this weak embrace are financial, as well as legal. Doctors, hospitals, and health care providers alike worry about violating privacy acts (HIPPA), bemoan the absence of approved processes and protocols for diagnosis and treatment, and cite insurance companies’ reluctance/refusal to reimburse providers for “cyber” medicine. Most health care organizations have yet to develop effective social media policies to protect both patients and the institutions from privacy or ethical problems. Yet patients, in increasing numbers, use these web-based platforms (Facebook, Twitter and blogs) to seek treatment, solicit feedback on specific physicians and hospitals, and research disease diagnoses. Patients are increasingly creating blogs and interest groups that immediately inform their communities of good and bad health-related services. Health care entities must come to the realization that the patient is now dictating how and when health care will be delivered and in what manner. Web sites such as Patientslikeme.com offer patients information and feedback on specific aliments, with little filters to screen misinformation from fact. Patientsite.org offers members more than just email; it is a portal offering patients the ability to make appointments, refill prescriptions, and see test results immediately. Social media is indeed empowering the patient. Health care providers are rapidly realizing they need to utilize social media marketing companies if they are to be successful. E.H. R. (Electronic Health Records) is the present-day attempt in the health care industry to record and store patient information efficiently and discreetly; yet this technology is expensive and requires skilled practitioners. Only health care networks and select doctors can afford this recordkeeping technology currently, but the global paperless doctor’s office is in the near future for Ormond Beach and the rest of the world. The optimization of marketing services, especially those on the Internet, has become critically important to the health care industry.
Physicians are attempting to master social media’s capabilities for networking with fellow practitioners, keeping abreast of the latest methods and procedures, monitoring patients’ progress, providing prenatal and newborn advice, following up on post-operative care and appointments.
Importance of Social Media to Health Care Industry
A recent report pointed out that over 50% of patients between the age of 25 and 34 are influenced by social media marketing when it comes to health care decisions. Print media and advertising are still influential, but demographics suggest that in order to provide information to the younger population, adopting newer social media venues and marketing services will be required. Presently, the majority of hospitals and doctors’ practices use social media to redirect potential users and patients to the hospital’s or doctor’s website, press releases or testimonials. They must increase their use of SEO to position themselves at the forefront of providers; they must use the multiple channels of SEO and make it extremely easy to find, use, and praise their services.
Federal and regulatory agencies have also begun to utilize social media for informational and research purposes. For example, TrialX is a portal that guides patients to potential clinical trials, offering direct access to the trial investigators and their areas of expertise. The companies combined the power of existing search engines with the individual’s’ personal medical history and potential studies and locations. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) enlists its Twitter feeds to provide reliable, up-to-date information about current diseases, such as the flu. Their Twitter feeds embed URLs that direct the reader back to the CDC home website, which can offer more detailed information than in 140 characters. Social media and free, fast access to information is here to stay, and the medical community needs to get on board.
Published by: Axiom Heath Care Marketing