It was another late night spent scouring the Internet. Tonight’s problem? My knee was aching and I was worried. Checking self-diagnosis websites did more harm than good, as every symptom seemed to always end in terminal illness. Stress eventually turned to fear, but before I decided to invest in a very (very) expensive ambulance ride, I discovered an article on my local healthcare provider’s Facebook page. The article covered drug-free solutions for knee pain. There I discovered a few stretches that made the pain more manageable until I could find time to visit my doctor.
A 2011 survey by Pew Research Center indicated that 59 percent of all adults have looked online for information about a specific disease or treatment. Looking at the statistics, it’s clear that the average person has a lot of questions. Whether it’s general health and wellness tips or directions to their nearest doctor’s office, social media is an effective and timely way to communicate with your audience of prospective and current patients.
According to PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI), one-third of consumers are using social media for health-related purposes. Patients are using social media to post about their health experiences, access reviews of treatments or physicians and read about someone else’s health journey. Social media provides that much-needed platform for interaction, knowledge and support, all factors that people crave, especially when it comes to something as powerful and personal as healthcare. When healthcare brands participate in the social conversation, they are accessible, they are inviting, they are warm and they are trustworthy.
While social media provides an array of opportunities for healthcare brands to engage with patients, it also presents some challenges. HIPAA compliance, liability and privacy concerns may arise when hosting conversations on these public platforms. To ensure your brand stays smart about social media in healthcare, create an instructive employee guideline that outlines do’s and don’ts. This document should cover best practices such as maintaining a brand-consistent voice, engaging audiences with respect and professionalism and taking personal health conversations to a different platform.
Again and again, numbers indicate the importance of social media in the realm of customer service. HRI notes that more than half of those surveyed expected healthcare providers to respond within a few hours to inquiries on social. When it comes to health, people want answers fast and social media provides that platform for important conversations without the wait time. Casa Colina Hospital and Centers for Healthcare is one healthcare provider that frequently uses social media to actively build and support their patient base. The Southern California medical center frequently engages with patients on social platforms, creating a sense of community while bolstering its reputation for quality patient care.
In addition to bolstering customer service endeavors, Casa Colina also uses social channels to promote community events, inform patients about new services lines and share general information about the hospital.
When I was experiencing an achy knee, my first inclination was not to visit my healthcare provider’s social media account…but it should have been. Perusing my hospital’s Facebook page, I realized that there are more trustworthy alternatives to crowd-sourced online sources. Moreover, it provided a space to engage with health and wellness information curated by professionals.
If the average person is on the hunt for answers about their health, who better to provide them with insight than a healthcare provider? Social media provides a place for healthcare brands to connect with patients like never before, creating an engaging space to learn, connect and share. Social media is becoming the new norm for everyday interaction and it’s time for healthcare to join the conversation.