Healthcare marketers, especially pharmaceutical companies, have a love-hate relationship with social media. Consumers have made searching and talking about health problems one of the top online categories. But healthcare providers have been hesitant about engaging in social media because of privacy concerns and the need to provide full disclosure with respect to medication.

The recently published Health Research Institute (HRI) social media survey from Pricewaterhousecoopers (PwC) shows just how great the difference is when it comes to activity levels between consumer sites and corporate sites. Consumers are hoping to find patient reviews of physicians or treatments (40%) or disease-specific information (33%). They also say social media data could affect their decision-making process as follows:

  • Obtain a second opinion 45%
  • Selection of a specific physician or facility 41%
  • Agree to take a specific medication 34%
  • Selection of a health insurance plan 32%

More healthcare businesses are engaging in social media to ‘give and receive’ customer input. But the volume of activity on the community sites is 24 times greater than it is on corporate sites. Business leaders are beginning to understand the importance of this information, especially as an intelligence source. As a result, PwC analysts believe healthcare operators will begin to shift their strategy from one of social media to social business. Healthcare operators may not necessarily increase their social media outreach but they are beginning to integrate the incoming social data with “customer service, data analytics and product development.” This change will require more hospitals and physicians to find ways to incorporate IT departments and other decision-makers into the social media effort which has, until now, largely been owned by the marketing departments.

Analysts expect this integration to take time but the intelligence generated by incoming social media data will eventually be transformed into new products and services. This data will come full circle as these organizations will likely use social media to promote their new offerings.

[Source: Social media ‘likes’ healthcare. Pwc.com. 2012. Web. 23 Apr. 2012]