Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Healthcare Social Media

In a world where Facebook is bigger than Myspace and, together, they have 400 million global users, it's obvious that the healthcare industry is acknowledging it has to adopt these new communications channels... and is starting to do so. 60% of doctors say they want or use social networking sites...

While consumers were quick to embrace social media, doctors were initially skeptical about its value. Now, prodded by the need to be smarter and more competitive in the complex world of modern medicine, doctors are becoming converts. The two largest doctor-only social networks, Sermo and Medscape Physician Connect, have more than 100,000 members each nationwide...

The enthusiasm spans generations. The average Sermo user is in his or her late 40s or early 50s. Many are solo practitioners in rural areas with little time or opportunity to hang around the hospital cafeteria for impromptu consults with other physicians.

Richard Schoor, for example, is a solo practitioner in Smithtown, L.I. The 41-year-old urologist frequents Sermo, blogs as the Independent Urologist and runs his own online forum, the Physicians Entrepreneur Group, which has about 60 members who exchange advice on running a medical practice. Dr. Schoor says he's gotten valuable information from the online forums, including advice on equipment that has prevented costly mistakes.

Combined with the well known use of social networking sites by patients, along with the push for electronic health records, it's becoming obvious that companies that sell goods and services to the healthcare industry are going to have to integrate social media into their marketing strategy and communications tactics.

Here are some social media business applications that healthcare and biotechnology companies need to start looking at now...

  • Lead generation
  • Enterprise sales support
  • Competitive intelligence gathering
  • Deal capture
  • Distribution partner identification and cultivation
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Executive visibility and thought leadership
  • Customer Service
  • Reputation management
  • Employee recruitment
  • Team, culture and morale building
On the association side, it's critical that member-based and issue associations leverage all the communications options at their disposal. From member retention to public policy, social media should be a central part of any healthcare associations marketing strategy. Indeed, here in DC, all sides in the fight over healthcare reform are using social networks and tools to spread their messages, keep coalitions together, and achieve their goals. From Senator Grassley calling out President Obama on Twitter to healthcare LinkedIn groups with thousands of members, it's clear that social media is being used by the biggest players in the most important situations...

why aren't you?
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