Healthcare Social Media: Real Engagement or Fluff?

Reprinted courtesy of mcol

Today’s Topic

Would your personal experiences and observations of healthcare social media indicate that real engagement is generally occurring, or to-date Is it mostly just promotion and marketing “fluff” that is being facilitated – and how can healthcare engagement objectives be better met?

Cyndy Nayer

Founder, Center for Health Value Innovation

As a person who uses social media to advance healthcare ideas, projects and policies, I’m obviously intrigued and excited about social media mean to the connected health. The opportunity to learn and share globally is huge, but it can be debilitating because of the vastness. So the question of “fluff” is excellent: who and how one interacts and is reciprocated is paramount to the success of healthcare social media, otherwise known as #HCSM or, often, socmed or somed. For those who understand the intent of each venue, harnessing and engaging the crowds is powerful. For those who don’t, here’s a quick primer:

Twitter is the headline, Facebook is the abstract, LinkedIn is the targeted focus on business (which, while it may seem more targeted, is actually broadening in scope everyday), YouTube is the movie trailer for coming attractions, Pinterest is the commercial, blogging is the foundational “home” that launches all of these apps, and it grows from here.

Social media shares information with those who care to tune in. Most definitely it’s not “fluff,” unless posts of any kind turn to deep, self-revelatory items or soundbites with little backup. Folks must choose their “channels” carefully, and even within, choose their “follows” even more carefully. I find that follow many, and many follow me, but I choose focus and interaction as my own work evolves.

The promise of social media lies in the interaction of the healthcare and healthy lifestyle systems with the end user, the consumer. With EHRs changing and merging along with the mergers and acquisitions within the healthcare delivery system, socmed can get confusing, cumbersome, and, in my efforts, often is turned off to the very persons who need the engagement: the patients and their families. That throws the consumerism into the user’s choice rather than a shared decision, where it would be more valuable.

Another wrench is in the works as Farzad Motashari, the ONC chief coordinator, leaving his post and advocacy for social media and improved patient-physician engagement. He’s been a stellar steward of the resources that have propelled wiring the US healthcare system. Now, we need a call-to-action for the rapid expansion of shared decisions fueled and followed on social media, whenever possible.

Engagement is not only about patients, although that is the “buzz” in most new IT launches that purport to improve engagement–these are mostly paternalistic, clinically-driven, non-inclusive of the patient as consumer or personal activist. Until and unless the healthcare delivery system gives up its tight hold on “their data” and makes it “our data,” the social media will expand the fill the void of shared decision-making and meaningful next steps, while the grand wiring of the health systems will, unfortunately, not deliver higher quality and outcomes. That will be a supreme misstep in this grand redesign.

Benjamin Isgur

Director, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP’s Health Research Institute

Just like they have been doing in the rest of the economy, consumers are now using social media channels to engage with healthcare companies. And why shouldn’t they? Consumers engage retail brands, restaurants and hotels, and technology companies about their likes, dislikes, and experiences every day.

Our research shows that hospitals, insurers and pharmaceutical companies are now part of consumers’ social media interaction. Forty-two percent of consumers have used social media to access health related consumer reviews. While nearly 30% have supported a health cause, 25% have posted about their own health experiences, and 20% have joined a health forum or community. This research identifies a segment of health consumers interested in learning, information gathering, and engaging in action on social media platforms.

Social media engagement requires trust and providers are the most trusted segment of the health industry. Sixty-one percent of consumers told us they trust information posted by providers on social media – while 37% said they trust information from pharmaceutical companies. Young people (18-24) are the most interested in social media – 80% are willing to share health information on-line and 90% say they trust health information found via social media.

Health organizations must now capitalize of consumer’s interest and use social media – not just as a marketing channel to gather and disseminate information but as a place to create communities and engage in conversations.

Vince Kuraitis

Principal, Better Health Technologies, LLC

A literal reading of the question might lead you to a look at specific actions targeted at “engagement” and propose a glass-half-empty or glass-half-full answer. For example, texting is becoming more popular as a health care tool; many vendors incorporate texting functionality into their patient education or medication reminder applications.

You could look at the texting example and conclude that an isolated texting intervention gets you 10, 20, 30% of the way toward full engagement. Someone else might might conclude differently.

But I think the answer to the question should go much deeper. What’s really going on here?

Think about how your kids use texting. For them, it’s not just an isolated activity — its part of a much broader lifestyle that’s different from the ones you and I grew up with. Good or bad, texting is an integral part of how they live.

We all know that we’re moving away from an industrial economy and toward what others describe as the information economy, the digital economy, the data driven economy…. I prefer the terminology that Seth Godin uses — he describes the movement as toward a “connection economy”. He writes:

The connection economy embraces abundance. No we don’t have an endless supply of resources…but we do have an abundance of choice, and abundance of connection, and an abundance of access to knowledge.”

As part of the industrial economy, from an individual’s POV healthcare was passive and reactive. We went to the doctor and he did something or prescribed something.
In the connection economy, health and health care can become social — where we have the opportunity to become proactive, engaged, a participant in the process instead of just a recipient of care.

We’re just starting this journey toward truly social health and care. So yes, there is a lot of fluff out there. But the change shortly will be very real, palpable, indispensable. Just ask your kids how’d they feel about giving up texting for a week.

Alexander Domaszewicz

Principal, Mercer

Social media in healthcare is just now emerging as a serious opportunity. I would say that there are innovative but more basic, pilot and early efforts than substantial, game-changing offerings in place today. That said, we have always had “social” as a channel for information, education and increased engagement in health care, it just hasn’t always had the “media” component. Group visits for chronic illnesses, recovery support groups, and asking your IRL (in real life) social networks (think PTA or at the golf club) for physician recommendations now have the opportunity to become more accessible and more impactful through new social media channels.

Engagement in healthcare can be spurred on by social media enhancements. There is tremendous potential for improving things like medication compliance when you can add behavioral science elements like “social proof” to the equation. Showing proactively that others are taking their medications and benefiting, and allowing people you care about and respect to “see” and reinforce positive habits and correct detrimental ones can reshape what it means to be supported in your healthy efforts.

Along with other non-traditional engagement tactics, social media will be a key lever that will need to be more robustly capitalized on in order to maximize health and help contain cost.

Lindsay Resnick

Principal, KBM Group

Marketing fluff…no way! Social media is here to stay and it cuts across every aspect of customer engagement, from acquisition to activation to loyalty. Is healthcare there yet, no, but what sector truly is? Socialnomics is evolving and moving fast. Think about where we are today: 55% Americans 45-54 have profile on social networking site, YouTube reaches more 18 to 34 year-olds than any cable network, and every second two new people join LinkedIn. Healthcare companies are using social media to generate new business leads, while others are using it establish a closer customer service relationship with members. Patients are getting connected with their network of providers and wellness programs are deploying social apps for activity and calorie tracking as well as to motivate consumers through gamification.

Healthcare like most industries recognizes that today’s consumer has a mobile mindset…an expectation that any desired information or service is available on any device at a person’s moment of need. Almost a quarter of Facebook’s 1 billion users are “mobile only”. Social media is an important engagement channel throughout the healthcare customer journey. Determining where consumers go for information and getting their attention is no longer as easy as a newspaper ad, billboard, or 30-second TV spot. Engagement has moved from one-way brand monologue to data-driven, personalized interactive social dialogue. It’s the new marketology!

Krista Burris

HealthCare Strategy Consultant, Keenan

As we witness healthcare converging with massive markets – healthcare, a $2.7 trillion annual spend, connecting with the expansion of smartphone technologies, wireless biosensors, and social media participation – we see an unprecedented level of real individual engagement in managing health from both a medical care and lifestyle perspective. Healthcare social media in particular has fostered engagement through online platforms and mobile technologies that create a sense of community and belonging, as well as collaboration and connectedness not only among those participating in social networks but also their healthcare providers, employers, wellness coaches, and other professionals.

Given the increasing interest and desire for information and interaction from all stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem, social media tools and principles have enhanced the resources available and potential for guidance from peers and healthcare professionals. Emerging movements like the Quantified Self further indicate a climate conducive to consumer adoption and engagement of healthcare social media and digital health technologies more broadly. The challenge with these new approaches toward the consumerization of personal health management is extending beyond early adoption so engagement can reach its full potential and evolve toward the mainstream. This necessitates alignment of incentives and empowering individuals with information that will help them understand how to make the aspects of healthcare social media personalized and actionable so it will translate into better decision making and ultimately end in improving the value equation in healthcare.

In terms of how healthcare engagement objectives can be better met, I believe an important driver of engagement is and will be consistent communication between patients and their providers. Some studies have found that patients retain less than 20% of what their doctor tells them, so engagement strategies and technologies that keep individuals connected to their healthcare professionals are promising for increased adoption and retention. Also, as individuals and the broader ecosystem realize the best ways to use the health information and data leveraged in social media platforms, the social media approach will continue to become more meaningful and create the value needed to improve outcomes.