To hospital promotions departments, health care social media presents a tremendous marketing opportunity. To CIOs and compliance officers, social media sites are HIPAA violations waiting to happen. Or to the CFO, episodes of informal care that can’t be captured for billing.
To patients, however, social media is a way to interact with friends and family, sharing symptoms, trading stories about care they’re receiving, reviewing health plans, hospitals and specialists, and commiserating with patients who have similar health issues. Oh yeah, and to go over their doctor’s head and consult their pals on whether or not they should get a second opinion. That’s all according to the PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report “Social media ‘likes’ healthcare: From marketing to social business.”
The bad news is that hospitals are not fully connecting health care social media to business strategy, making it a resource driving customer relationship management or quality of care. While 80% of hospitals have some social media presence, it’s minimal, with total post counts typically in the hundreds, not thousands. Yet the report suggests that social media sites – such as Facebook and its 845 million users, more than the population of Europe – represent an untapped resource for health care to drive revenue growth.
The good news? Health care is so lightly represented on social media sites that the more than 1,000 patients PwC surveyed for the report indicate that they still trust the information providers post, when they do take the time to do it. Some 61% of consumer respondents are likely to trust information posted by providers and 41% are likely to share with providers via social media. That almost doubles the 37% who said they trust information posted by a drug company, and 28% likely to share information with a drug company.
While all this portends to a new era in health care – and another coming phase of the health IT revolution where more paper-based processes go online – patients already are warning their providers: Do it right, or don’t do it at all.
“More than 75% of consumers surveyed would expect healthcare companies to respond within a day or less to appointment requests via social media, while nearly half would expect a response within a few hours,” PwC reports. Meaning, halfhearted attempts to start serving patients in social media venues will only lead to frustration on the part of patient and provider alike.