By Maria Toft

April 11th, 2017

When it comes to healthcare, modern consumers need a lot more advice than, ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away.’ Unfortunately, the healthcare industry has lagged behind other industries when it comes to experimenting with new media to engage with customers.

Partaking in social media has been a challenge for many healthcare companies due to the difficulty of navigating FDA regulations and the misconception that their audience is elsewhere. Despite the potential obstacles, social media can bring big opportunities for the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. Also, not being active on social media can create setbacks for the company, physicians, and patients.

Social media has changed patient behavior
Digital media has transformed the patient journey by changing the way patients and healthcare providers access medical information. Patients today – like all modern consumers of goods and services – are more knowledgeable than ever and expect quick answers to their online questions and concerns.

In fact, social media is the go-to place for as many as 24% of patients. These patients rely on social media at least once a day to seek medical guidance. The growth in patient demand for information via accessible media is multifaceted in the following ways:

  • Patients are participating in online discussions and communities to find support from people experiencing similar health issues
  • Consumers are turning to social media to find the best doctors and treatment options. 42% of consumers look up reviews for health providers, treatments and products before making a decision
  • Patients look for helpful information and videos to guide them through treatment 

*Source: Infographic: How Patients and Healthcare Providers are Using Social Media

It’s clear that healthcare providers need to better leverage social media, but as healthcare providers, it’s equally important to do it right. Here’s how healthcare providers can use social media effectively.

Using digital means to offer emotional support
Social media, blogs and discussion boards offer healthcare companies a personalized and scalable way to engage with patients. Healthcare companies can provide valuable resources through personalized content, informational videos and social communities. Providing these resources empowers patients to become more knowledgeable about health issues. It also provides emotional support and accessible information to help people navigate the sometimes intimidating treatment journey.

An example of how Cedars-Sinai uses social posts to tell patient stories.

Engaging audiences and communities with personalized content
The first step for creating a successful content strategy is to gain a better understanding of your audience and the learn the type of content that resonates with them.

Falcon.io’s social media and customer experience management platform helps teams to connect and compile all social media channel data – as well as grow and enrich it with the platform’s social listening tool.

When businesses consolidate all their social channels into one platform it’s easy to observe the performance of various pieces of content, which will help inform your content strategy. For example, through monitoring social channels, you can identify topics which interest your audience and tailor your content accordingly.

Tip: videos are an effective way to provide engaging information as nearly 25% of internet users watch health-related videos online. It is also a good way to promote your clinic or hospital and feature doctors or new treatment solutions.

Tracking brand reputation and trends with social listening
Social media and online support groups provide rich insights. However, most social chatter about healthcare providers does not happen on their own social channels. That is why it is so important to use a social media listening tool.

Monitoring what existing or potential patients discuss on online sites and or social networks allows healthcare providers to understand trending topics and identify negative sentiment. It also helps them to react more quickly to queries and concerns – providing the kind of real-time answers people now expect.

Tip: social listening can also help you identify new influencers. An influencer strategy may not be something your healthcare company has thought about yet, but it’s a good way to present a more humanized side to your brand. For example, Humana uses personal stories to add the human element to their products.

 

A post shared by Humana Inc. (@humana) on

Humana has implemented an influencer strategy that provides a more human element to their brand through personal stories.

Understanding the evolving social media landscape and how it’s changing the patient journey will give any healthcare company a competitive advantage. Patients are seeking emotional support and personalized content. You can deliver this content with social media. If you haven’t created a social and content strategy yet, it’s time to start scaling to gain a competitive edge now.

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