Commentary

Health Care Orgs Lag in Social Media

Health care organizations, including hospitals, health insurers and pharmaceutical companies, lag far behind consumers in social media adoption, according to a new Pricewaterhouse Coopers report titled “Social media likes healthcare: From marketing to social business,” based on a social media survey of over 1,000 U.S. consumers and 124 members of the eHealth Initiative (eHI) -- a national association of industry organizations focusing on health information and technology. While that finding isn’t particularly surprising, given institutional inertia and the volume of regulation they have to deal with, PwC points out that health care orgs are neglecting a major channel for patient acquisition and retention.

The health care orgs fared especially badly in comparison to community sites maintained by patients as forums and information resources. Comparing these community groups to the social media presences of ten major healthcare companies, PwC found the community sites had 24 times more social media activity than the corporate counterparts.

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There’s no question consumers are increasingly dependent on the Internet and social media in particular for health information. According to PwC, one third of consumers use social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and online forums to research health-related matters. Four in ten consumers use social media to find health-related consumer reviews, including reviews of doctors and treatments, and one in four have posted something about their health experience online.

Asked how social media information might influence them, 45% of respondents said that it would influence their decision to get a second opinion; 41% that it would affect their choice of doctor or medical facility; 34% that it would affect their decision about a medication; and 32% that it would affect their choice of a health insurance plan.

Inevitably, younger consumers are taking to social media for health care faster than older people. Over 80% of respondents ages 18-24 said they would share health-related information through social media channels, compared to just 45% of adults ages 45-64.

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