The Rise of Social Media Engagement in Healthcare
The emergence of digital technologies has a profound transformational impact across both daily life and business sector globally. Increased usage of personal computing, smartphones and iPads through various apps backed by the exponential explosion in internet and social media usage utilizes this change. Healthcare industry is no exception. It is therefore important to review the impact of technology specifically in the context of Social Media Engagement (SME) in healthcare interventions.
Engaging patients through social media empowers them to conduct extensive medical research thereby aiding informed decision making on the due course of treatment. Therefore, Health Care Professionals (HCPs) should synchronize with social media for meeting demanding consumer preferences and realigning strategies by adjustments. This entails employing digital marketing channels for connecting prospective clientele with a targeted Return on Investments (ROI) focus rather than traditional advertising modes like radio, newspaper, and television. During the past decade, social platforms like Facebook and Twitter have emerged as powerful propagators.
Reasons for considering SME Strategy in Healthcare Practices
- Catering to a wider audience considering the voluminous transactions of digital healthcare activity
- Mass proliferation of web- linked patient communities and support forums as platform for information exchange with family/ friends/ others
- Direct Impact of social media advertising on ROI
- Social media channels are diversified, quickly adaptable to rapid shifts in usage
and provide enhanced user experiences
- Online resources provide quick access to reliable data for aiding physicians in making appropriate clinical decisions
- Certain specific diseases receive the greatest amount of attention due to lifestyle changes, pro-active health insurance incentives and confidentiality considerations
Challenges in adopting SME in Healthcare
- Regulatory Issues including Adverse Drug Reaction (ADR) reporting. It is obligatory for HCPs to report all known ADRs to the regulators for purpose of drug safety
- Technical challenges including replying to online interactions, handling voluminous data transactions between social media and mobile devices, loss of content control and privacy concerns
- Lack of familiarity with social media
- Internal issues (like focussing on ROI of SME)
Popularly accessed Social Media Channels
- Wikipedia – An online free, comprehensive encyclopaedia which is widely trusted by patients and physicians .But at times it is vulnerable to misinformation and biased views thereby creating concerns both medically and academically.
- Twitter – An effective broadcasting platform that incorporates user-generated comments or ‘tweets’ ,link sharing and ‘live’ event sharing .However it lacks centralised control and requires frequent updates
- Facebook – The largest and most diverse social network with provision for creating a peer network with an extended service portfolio including groups, events, games and personal messaging .Drawbacks include difficulty in maintaining regulatory adherence and privacy concerns
- LinkedIn- An amazing business and employment oriented social networking service. It is one of the largest professional networking social media platform for building relationship. It is a great tool to increase the business and great resource to grow the network which is preferred by most of the healthcare industries. Privacy concern and lack of actively engaged users are the pitfalls in LinkedIn.
- YouTube – Most popular channel for sharing video content and comments that can be easily linked with other networks. It is preferred by most physicians for its highly informative, detail-orientated videos and it promotes emotive patient focused content .Disadvantages include large time and financial investments and requirement of specialist skills
Impact of SME in Healthcare
The healthcare information sought on social media is generally related to specific disease enquiries for self/ relations/friends. It is significant that SME is sought to fulfil an unmet information need or seek emotional support. The borders demarcated by age-wise utilization will diminish over the coming years as digital technology percolates to increase its involvement and influence professionally. SME is currently in a state of flux. Also penetration of additional channels and usages will emerge shortly, with platforms such as Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr gaining increasing importance. These evolving trends will bind the HCPs closer for optimizing their potential for delivering the best possible outcomes for patient engagements.