Health companies miss out on social media influence

Health organizations need to jump aboard the social media wagon, or they’ll miss opportunities to engage consumers, a new report by PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute finds.

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Social media activity by hospitals, health insurers and pharmaceutical companies is miniscule compared to the activity on community sites, the report finds. While eight in 10 health care companies (as tracked by HRI during a sample one-week period) had a presence on various social media sites, community sites had 24 times more social media activity than corporate sites.

A third of consumers use social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and online forums for health-related matters, including seeking medical information, tracking and sharing symptoms, and broadcasting how they feel about doctors, drugs, treatments, medical devices and health plans.

“The power of social media for health organizations is in listening and engaging with consumers on their terms,"says Kelly Barnes, US Health Industries leader, PwC. “Health organizations have an opportunity to use social media as a way to better listen, participate in discussions and engage with consumers in ways that extend their interaction beyond a clinical encounter. Savvy adopters are viewing social media as a business strategy, not just a marketing tool."

Four in 10 consumers say they have used social media to find health-related consumer reviews (such as treatments or physicians); one in three have sought information related to other patients’ experiences with their disease; one in four have “posted” about their health experience; and one in five have joined a health forum or community.

The majority (72 percent) say they’d like to make doctor appointments through social media channels but fewer (around half) say they would expect a response within a few hours.

When asked how information found through social media would affect their health decisions, 45 percent of consumers said it would affect their decision to get a second opinion; 41 percent said it would affect their choice of a specific doctor, hospital or medical facility; 34 percent said it would affect their decision about taking a certain medication; and 32 percent said it would affect their choice of a health insurance plan.

“Social media is another source of business intelligence that provides information at the aggregate level, not only about what consumers ‘like,’ but what they need, how they behave and when their experiences demand an immediate response,” says Daniel Garrett, US Health Information Technology leader, PwC. "Health organizations can engage IT to integrate social data intelligence with existing systems and processes, yet most are still struggling with how to manage the data from their own clinical systems."

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