From seemingly innocuous platforms for personal interaction amongst registered community members, social media (comprising Face Book, Twitter, and other interactive sites) has emerged as a powerful channel for marketing. In fact, its business-utility has grown to so much that it has evolved to be a parallel channel to the traditional mode of advertising of products and services. And, with healthcare being no exception, has slowly but surely embracing it in what has come to be recognized as “healthcare-based social media”.
As healthcare-base social media has the potential not only to drive stakeholders’ (providers, payers, and pharmaceutical companies) offers to the target population (patient community), but also encourage patient engagement through interactive communication, there is a growing realization that social media needs to implemented in such that best serves both business as well as welfare of the patient community at large. While stakeholders devise unique social media strategies for attracting substantial healthcare market for their products and service offers, the response from the patient community seems to be quite encouraging. According to a recent study from PwC’s Health Research Institute, 40 percent of the sample population has been found to be using social media to find health-related consumer reviews. Twenty-five percent have been found to use social media for “posting” about their health experience; and 20 percent have joined a health forum or community. Forty-one percent of the respondents have confessed that social media would affect their choice of a specific doctor, hospital or medical facility, while forty-five percent of them have even said it would affect their decision to get a second opinion.
The survey results are sure indicator of growing interest from patients in using social media platforms, such as Face book, Twitter or a patient-based community site like Patients Like Me, to share and engage in their experiences. Now the only it is imperative that providers, payers, and even pharmaceutical companies put themselves in position where they can listen to the conversation that is happening in social media, decipher patients’ expectations, and engage them with amicable solutions. The initiative of some organizations in devising unique social media initiatives should instill others to follow. These leaders have developed both internal and external media platforms – the internal system allows for knowledge sharing, innovation, and communication across their wide spectrum, while the external platform allows for patients to create communities and find legitimate medical information.
Therefore, there is really shift from using social media as a mere marketing tool to being a patient-engagement tool. The fact that the PwC survey found 80% of the 124 members (comprising providers, payers, and pharmaceutical organizations) is itself is an endorsement of this shift towards engagement model of service through social media platforms.
While there can be no denying as to social media’s potential to impact patient engagement and involvement, connectivity between individuals, and flow of information across the macro healthcare continuum, there is always an undercurrent of it being susceptible to privacy concerns. As more physicians and healthcare organizations move to social media, its misuse will increase the exposure of Protected Healthcare Information (PHI). Consequently, they may have to face the wrath of the governing body, such as HIPAA, which restricts and prohibits the circulation of clinical information that infringes patients’ privacy norms. Therefore, providers, payers, and pharmaceutical companies need to get their social media platforms customized and run in congruence with HIPAA mandate to avoid being dragged into any legal issue.
Medicalbillersandcoders.com (www.medicalbillersandcoders.com) – with a long standing reputation for credible and comprehensive solutions comprising the entire gamut of clinical and operational management – is poised to play a catalyst-role for those embracing social media as a channel for offering their healthcare products and services.