In the past, I’ve been somewhat puzzled by the reluctance of certain industries and occupations to embrace social media as a way to connect with and engage their customers.
But, I’ll admit, I’m even more baffled when companies remain resistant, even after consumers demonstrate they are eager to learn more about them online.
Case in point: People are flocking to social media sites and health forums for healthcare information, and yet providers of healthcare services are maintaining relatively low social media profiles.
According to a recently released PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report, consumers were 24 times more likely to seek or share health information on community sites than on the corporate sites of healthcare organizations, largely because they found that community sites were more accessible.
Kelly Barnes, US Health Industries leader at PwC, says social media has created a new customer service access point where consumers expect an immediate response.
“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,” Barnes explained. “Savvy adopters are viewing social media as a business strategy, not just a marketing tool.”
Here’s what researchers found after surveying 1,000 US consumers for this study:
- One in three respondents indicated they have gone to social media sites (e.g., YouTube and Facebook) and online health-related community forums to look for medical information on specific conditions, share personal stories and post opinions on a wide range of topics, ranging from available treatment methods and reactions to medications to personal experiences with specific healthcare providers or insurers.
- Nearly half (45 percent) of those surveyed stated that medical information they found on social media would convince them to get a second opinion.
- Forty-one percent admitted that their choice of a health care provider might be influenced by experiences shared via social media, and roughly a third of the respondents said that their decision to take a certain medication or select a health insurance carrier could be affected by social media input from others.
- These percentages increased dramatically among younger consumers. Eight in 10 individuals aged 18 to 24 stated they would comfortably communicate information regarding their health via social media, and a whopping 90 percent of those in this age group felt they can trust health-related information found on these sites.
Based on results like these, it’s clear healthcare organizations need to begin incorporating social media marketing into their business strategies. Half of the practices and companies admitted that they just haven’t figured out how to integrate social media activities into their communication plans, even though more than 80 percent rely on their marketing and communications people to oversee their social media interactions. I’m sure compliance concerns play a role in the slow pace of adoption, but issues like those have been conquered in other industries, and new integrated marketing management solutions can help guarantee all efforts meet policy standards and are monitored and approved by the appropriate personnel.
As I see it, the healthcare industry, as a whole, needs to do a better job of putting its finger on the pulse of where its members, clients and patients are going to access the health information they want and need.