Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Prognosis Negative on Social Media Adoption in Healthcare

We all can be susceptible to hype, so it's a good thing to try and gather empirical evidence from time to time to challenge one's notions. Even if you think you are in great shape and have the body of a 20 year old Olympic athlete, it's probably a good idea to step on a scale once in a while and confirm that this is actually true. -ahem-

Everyone is talking about the impact that social media is having on the healthcare industry. But is it really? There are plenty of patient and doctor social networks and lots of hospital twitter accounts. But is any of this obvious activity actually engaging these disparate audiences? Are we all confusing motion with progress?

Well, my colleagues and I got to talking about the need for an informal survey to determine what impact all this social media adoption is having. Are people satisfied with the healthcare industry's embrace of social media? are they getting the information they are looking for? What sort of info are they, in fact, searching for? So we set up a quick survey on SurveyMonkey.com and distributed it through Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media sites.

Here are a couple of nuggets to digest:
  • 96 percent of respondents said the industry is not using social media enough to communicate, share information and engage with patients.
  • Ninety-nine percent of the respondents frequently used social media, including blogs, social networks and online communities, to discuss and research a wide variety of healthcare topics.
96% for a small survey is still pretty much everyone. I think we can conclude that the healthcare industry is nowhere near effectively engaging with it's stakeholders. Lots of work still needs to be done.

Take a look at the survey results. Let me know what you think- leave a comment...

1. How often do you review blogs, social networks, online communities and discussion forms for healthcare related information?
  • Never- 1%
  • Only once- 0%
  • Occasionally- 17%
  • Once a day- 16%
  • All the time- 66%
2. What kinds of information do you look for in social media and online communities?
  • Personal health information- 51%
  • Public policy information- 65%
  • Scientific research and developments- 68%
  • Market trends- 82%
  • Employment information- 21%
3. Do you think the health care industry, as a whole, is using social media well enough to communicate, share information and engage with consumers?

Yes- 4%
No- 96%

(BTW, any comments about statistics, sample size or standard deviations will be summarily mocked. :))


Anonymous said...

I think fear of the unknown is playing a big role - from a pharmaceutical standpoint (and I have 15 years of experience in the medical interactive arena). There are a few companies that will toe-dunk a bit, but we are just now seeing companies try to get their collective heads around social media - they do a lot of researching and a lot of meeting with lawyers before they actually do something.

Of course, a brand actually should have something good to offer, so sometimes it is worth it to wait - on the other hand, waiting until this media is somehow deemed "safe" is ridiculous - we as an industry have good information and our hearts in the right places, we just need to buck up a bit and get brave.

I'm doing my best to lead the way by example!!

Janet Carlson
Founder & CEO
One Eleven Interactive

Straight to the Point said...

Janet, thanks for the comment! I agree that companies, whether pharmaceutical or not, should aim before they fire. Clients should set a corporate goal first, then develop a strategy to achieve it...and only then evaluate a set of tactics to support the strategy.

Social media is a transformative set of tactics, but they are still just tactics. They need to be put to the service of the corporate objective. When more and more marketers have thought through the implications of social media and tied them more securely to things like sales, profitability and corporate valuation, then the objections of lawyers will matter less and less.

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

This is precisely the problem that we are solving at Within3 (www.within3.com). We work directly with Pharma, Teaching Hospitals, Medical Schools, Research Group and Associations to build trusted and secure online communities for healthcare professionals only. We credential all users of the system and work directly with the community owners to develop a long term strategy of engagement.

Dan Dunlop said...

What I have to ask myself is why aren’t these enlightened individuals ( these bright survey respondents) bringing their healthcare organizations into the world of social media? These are self-professed social media users (66% claimed to be frequent social media users). They should be the standard bearers and should be initiating change in their organizations. If the marketers don’t do it, you can’t expect it to come from the c-suite. So what are the marketers doing?

There is no argument that healthcare organizations are behind the curve when it comes to social media. Okay, point made. Now let’s move forward. The early adopters need to drag their colleagues, kicking and screaming if necessary, into today’s reality. These hospitals need to realize that they have thousands of brand advocates and brand ambassadors out there in their communities, and their energy can be harnessed through social media and online communities. Through social media we can engage and activate them on behalf of the brand. It is time that the industry stopped talking about social media and began doing something about it. Join the conversation! Take your head out of the sand. This phenomenon will change, but it is not going away. So, get on board. Otherwise you are doing your hospital (or clients) a serious disservice.

Dan Dunlop

Anonymous said...

Okay I have to be anonymous so my twitter health IT friends don't all disown me but this is a self serving survey since you asked people online who received the survey via specific media that would also self select.

The more interesting question is what if any difference does it have on outcomes? You know who is on twitter? People who are "pimping" their own blogs, people who don't have regular jobs and people who think real people are on twitter!

People love baubles and new things but the reality is that infomartion alone doesn't change behavior. Otherwise why would people still smoke? Some of the tredy online health care communities only have a couple of 1000 people on them and other online social groups (say Oprah.com or Ivillage have millions of people but it is the health 2.0 groups that fly around giving speeches..

The last thing I would want is to get medical advice from other patients (except for how to find a good provider or how to manage side effects). I don't expect the guy down the street to diagnose my car or the kid next door to fix my computer so why would I want some stranger online diagnosing and offering suggestions?

Um I think that is what doctors go to school to learn how to do? If I had some rare disease or needed some social support for say diabetes sure.. but lets not mistake the bath water for the baby.

The biggest proponents of social media in health care are the marketing departs of companies that just want to tap a new market. Okay a little cynical today sorry

Anonymous said...

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