Two Ways Social Media is Having an Impact on Healthcare

Two Ways Social Media is Having an Impact on Healthcare

Current statistics on the state of markets and how people use them are critical for smart management. Becker’s Healthcare recently ran a compilation of statistics from a variety of sources on how social media was interacting with the healthcare industry.

Of course, the numbers may change tomorrow. But even if they don’t show absolute trends, they do indicate how the use of social technology is changing. Executives, managers, and administrators in healthcare providers need to take note, because the coming changes will affect the decisions they make in the future.

People listen to social media

Healthcare professionals are already painfully aware of patients who, in the name of being informed, heavily research their health and what conditions they think they have. Practitioners are no longer considered automatic authorities. They’ve had to defend themselves against Google searches.

Now things get more complicated, as up to 40 percent of consumers say that what they see on social media has an impact on how they handle their health. Combine that with 90 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 24 trusting medical information spread through social media, and professionals likely could have a significant battle with many patients, particularly younger ones, if the professionals’ advice doesn’t match the wisdom of the crowd.

The impact on choice of provider

Of general consumers, 41 percent say that social media might have an effect on which doctor or hospital they choose. But only 31 percent of providers use social media to network and 26 percent of hospitals use social media. Look at drug companies and 23 percent have yet to deal with social media security or privacy issues. Only 31 percent of healthcare institutions have written social media guidelines. There’s a major disconnection in the expectations and actions of consumers and the marketing of the industry.

Again, these numbers are one time measures and may have their weaknesses in how they were determined and even what they individually mean. But, taken together, there is a critical problem in healthcare. Consumers increasingly rely on social media to help manage their health. Given the heavier use by younger people, this trend is likely to sharply increase over time.

Healthcare organizations and even individual providers that want to be successful and effective in coming years cannot turn their backs on social networks. Now is the time to understand these communication channels, recognize the potential impacts of privacy and security, and develop policies to employ social networks in effective ways.

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