All Articles Marketing Social Media Live from Social Media Week: Health care industry still playing catch-up online

Live from Social Media Week: Health care industry still playing catch-up online

3 min read

Social Media

Today’s guest post comes from Joseph M. Caruso, Publisher of SmartBrief’s Health Care Group

A Social Media Week panel on health care and social media offered insights into some of the major issues facing the industry as more health care-related interactions go online. The panel dove right in, addressing the state of adverse-events reporting regulations — which I like to refer to as “Don’t Ask — You Won’t Have to Tell.”

The panelists acknowledged that the sheer volume of effort required to monitor, assess and then report any adverse events is daunting. However, prohibiting patients from engaging in a dialog through which health care providers might learn how to better serve their needs is not the answer.

Technologies are now available to help companies sift through online conversations to determine what might be considered an adverse event, considerably lessening the reporting burden. Companies can also make reporting easier by requiring users to log in when visiting their Web site.

Health care companies will need to overcome internal obstacles if they’re going to fully realize the benefits of social technology. The current labyrinth of approvals within a company doesn’t lend itself to anything near real-time interaction, panelists noted.  Health care marketing has historically been all about explaining the facts. In the future, companies will need to learn to listen to customers and respond to their unmet needs and unanswered questions. This is how consumer marketing works in the 21st century. As one panelist put it, “People don’t want to friend Lipitor.” They want unbranded information about their condition and expert advice on what to do.

The industry also needs to find a way to motivate providers and compensate them for participating in a dialog, the panel said. Doctors, for example, have no incentive to interact with patients online, as they won’t receive compensation and they open themselves to potential liability. Electronic medical-record applications are expensive and take more time to complete while providing little immediate benefit.

Technology can play a role here, the panel noted, but to date, doctors are less than thrilled by what’s available on the market, and they are completely turned off by the out-of-pocket costs.  It will take an entrepreneur to develop the “killer app” that can create a win for providers, patients, insurers and pharma companies before significant movement will occur, they said.

Arguing that doctors aren’t “slow adopters,” merely time- and cash-strapped professionals, two former practicing physicians on the panel did acknowledge that doctors also need to become more consumer-friendly to compete in the future. Doctor-ranking sites are emerging where patients can “shop” for the best physician in their area, as determined by other patients. While physicians place little credibility on such rankings right now, they are an indication of things to come.

Image credit, laflor, via iStock