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With the advent of social media, the frequency and reach of social interactions changed forever. While I firmly believe activities like commerce have always been social activities (i.e., before Facebook, Twitter, et al), what social media changed was access to our networks and the immediacy of feedback. We have seen the effect that social media has had upon eCommerce over the past few years and, while opinions vary on how to measure this effect, there is no doubt that has provided fuel to the eCommerce fire.

One of the biggest challenges in any business, or within any group of people, for that matter, is that of communication. We humans are a social group and we tend to reach out to those closest to us for advice, feedback, direction and confirmation about choices we make in our daily lives. We also have a tendency to understand what others are telling us only if it arrives in a manner and format that we are expecting and in a form that we can understand and, if it doesn’t, there are often uncertain consequences. In many businesses these consequences may not be a life and death situation, but in industries like healthcare, this may certainly be the case.

The lines of communication regarding one’s healthcare were never really between a person and their doctor alone. People discussed diagnoses with family and close friends and many pursued second medical opinions. Decades ago, when online bulletin boards appeared on now ancient services like CompuServe and dedicated dial-in BBSes, there were many health related boards where people shared their diagnoses, looked for support, ideas, treatments and specialists. With the internet and social media easing the access to communities of expertise, and with so many groups and hashtags to follow while online, there is a potential wealth of support and information available to anyone that takes the time to look.

A full 40% of respondents said that they have used social media to look for reviews of treatment methods or doctors.

A recent PwC study indicates that 90% of those between the ages of 18 and 24 are likely to share healthcare information on social networks. A full 40% said that they have used social media to look for reviews of treatment methods or doctors. Respondents also indicated that they would use social media to book appointments and — here’s the kicker — would expect a response in a few hours when doing so.

For healthcare providers, that means embracing social media is not only important, but it also requires listening and responding and all the business process changes that are required to actively and accurately support a group of constituents. So, guess what? The same things that are important to a consumer are important to a patient. Receiving quick feedback, improving customer / patient loyalty and providing more efficient and compliant care are all benefits of a properly implemented social media strategy for healthcare. Key components of a winning social media healthcare strategy include:

  • Focused and appropriate content for an audience that is current and refreshed regularly.
  • Active listening to those in the community and quick response times. Nothing builds trust more quickly than a sense of urgency around communication, but only if the communication is tailored to the healthcare recipient.
  • Encouraging a safe, collaborative experience where healthcare recipients can communicate their experiences with others in the global community.
  • Privacy and Compliance (HIPAA) are very important in this context and some countries have different regulations about what can and can’t be shared.

What Healthcare related social media integrations have you seen?  What do you think about integrating social media with the patient healthcare experience?