5 Ways Social Is Helping The Healthcare Industry

by , Jun 5, 2012, 7:24 AM
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The effect social media has had on society and world culture is undeniable. We have witnessed social networks help lead to the downfall of dictatorial regimes in the Middle East. They have been facilitating like-minded audiences across the world to collaborate for good. And, of course, it has dramatically changed how we communicate with our friends and family, as well as businesses and organizations. The healthcare industry is no stranger to social as many organizations have already leveraged it in many successful ways. See below five examples of how social is helping the healthcare industry.

1. Social for Good: Charitable Health Programs

Social is an incredible platform to facilitate good. Take, for example, a company called Two Degrees that makes healthy snack bars with the mission of feeding the world’s children. For every bar purchased, it will donate a meal to a hungry child. Two Degrees leverages the power of social sharing to spur additional purchases and donations. The company’s website states, “Our mission is to empower you, the consumer, to help feed 200 million hungry children through just Two Degrees of separation. After all, in today’s world, none of us are that far away.” That is so true. We believe in the power of using social for good, which is why last year we purchased a social, charitable gaming product. One of our CPG clients is currently using the product for its public affairs campaign to promote healthy, clean drinking water. In a branded, memory-style game, players match products and learn eco-friendly facts about those products while making donations towards the Children’s Safe Drinking Water program. These are just two of many noteworthy examples.

2. Organ Donation Process: Facebook Adds Scale, Encourages Organ Donation 

Facebook itself recently announced it is partnering with Donate for Life to enable users to share organ donor status and link to databases where people can register to become donors. This has the potential to transform the organ donation process, facilitating and connecting millions to save lives. Experts say that the vast majority of people understand organ donation is a good thing and want to donate but for various reasons have never officially registered. A representative for the New York Organ Donor Network was quoted in USA Today about the program: “This is absolutely critical at this time when online communication and social media are really the way people are communicating.” Facebook’s efforts will help millions worldwide in what might prove to be the most successful idea ever for organ donation.

3. Consumer Focus Groups: Mining Today’s Social Web for Health Data

It has been said that consumer focus groups are no longer needed; today’s social web provides the largest consumer test market available. Health and medical information is some of the most shared content across the social web. The healthcare industry is benefiting by listening, monitoring and mining everything from Twitter feeds to Facebook to message boards to gather valuable medical information and insights. Wool Labs, a business intelligence company, has been doing this successfully for numerous clients. One executive commented recently in the Wall Street Journal: “The public clamor to share health information and experiences isn’t going away—everybody should figure out how to harness it, rather than hide from it. You have more to lose by not looking.” Of course, researchers and organizations have been mining the Internet since its start for valuable data. But the emergence of social networks like Facebook and Twitter took it to an entirely new and beneficial level, opening up a treasure trove of data from a most engaged and vocal audience approaching more than 1 billion worldwide.

4. Niche Platforms Arise: Sharing Personal Health Information

The rise of Facebook has led to other “niche” socially enabled platforms that facilitate communications within like-minded groups and individuals. Mountain View, Calif.-based Genomera is one such company that helps people share genomic information by providing a scalable platform that connects these people and groups. Melanie Swan, owner of DIYGenomics.org, and a partner with Genomera, said that “to really scale we needed an automated platform where it is easy to share information.” Swan refers to Genomera as the “Facebook of genomics.” These niche social platforms allow consumers, doctors and patients to create their own groups and networks to enable better access to open information. WebMD does this as well as other startups like DoctorsElite, CareZone and HealthTap, to name a few.

5. Healthcare Consumers: Social Helping to Empower Today’s Consumer

Today’s new technologies are empowering consumers to take a direct and engaged approach to their healthcare and wellness. No more playing the waiting game, consumers are actively reaching out and engaging with health and medical professions. And those professionals are engaging back. PwC’s recent survey found that 32% use social media outlets to connect with health organizations or people with similar health-care interests. And that number is rising daily. Consumers overwhelmingly prefer to interact with their own doctors and providers online, with 73% of U.S. adults indicating that they “would use an online, secure tool to make it easier to communicate with their doctor and office staff” (Intuit Health Survey) and 60% are even comfortable sharing data (PwC Survey). As consumers increasingly turn to digital and social channels, healthcare marketers have a tremendous opportunity to reach, engage and interact with today’s consumer like never before. And that is great for all parties involved. 

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