I have a cousin who deals with a chronic, debilitating illness and she has devoted her life for the past 5 years trying to work on advancing communication between patients and their doctors. She has experienced the frustration of not being able to understand diagnoses and feeling like no one was there to explain them to her. Forget the concept of anyone from the healthcare industry being there to empathize or counsel with her. The healthcare system has simply grown too big, too busy, and too impersonal. So, could social media ever play a role in healthcare?
According to this article, healthcare practically seems like the last industry that would mesh well with the self-broadcasting nature of social media. Afterall, if you have a medical problem like gonorrhea or AIDS, this is not something you’d flippantly post about on Facebook or Twitter. However, as current and future generations demand more of a personal experience as consumers of everything, healthcare will inevitably need to step up to the social media plate. There are many other ways besides broadcasting diagnoses on Facebook and Twitter that social media can be used by patients and healthcare practitioners alike to bridge the communication gap. Here are some of those ways:
#1 Creating forums
A media group called the Health Care Marketing Group specializes in designing forums to be implemented on healthcare companies’ websites. They’ve designed such forums for clients such as New York Fertility Services, Breast Thermography of Middle Tennessee, and Global Pain & Spine Clinic. As you can imagine, each of these specialty health care facilities treat patients who are all dealing with similar issues and could benefit from being able to talk to each other. Introducing forums, in fact, has created a community of patients who have drawn strength from each other’s stories and health strategies. And select health practitioners work with PR teams of these facilities to participate in and mediate conversations taking place on the forum so that forum members get sound advice and explanations of diagnoses and common treatments. Forums of this type are catching on slowly, but as time goes on, perhaps each clinic will develop their own website and forums specific to the population of patients their treating.
#2 Creating videos
A number of uses for videos in the healthcare system immediately come to mind. First of all, there is no doubt that informational and instruction videos could be put to use by health practitioners. Often, when a person receives a serious diagnosis, everything they hear beyond “You have _____” sounds like static. When doctors immediately go on to explain treatment options, patients don’t have the capacity to process all of this overwhelming information. However, if doctors developed their own video series about different common diagnoses, they could upload those videos onto their own YouTube channel and direct their patients to refer to those videos as often and as much as they like for a clear explanation of what they face and their best options for treatment. A benefit to this is that anyone around the world could access those videos and benefit from them as well. Also, patient success stories from clinics can easily be turned into uplifting musical montage videos and placed on clinic YouTube channels as well. This use of social media serves not only to uplift and inform patients, but to establish and enhance the brand image of that clinic.
#3 Clinic social media profiles
Finally, clinics can utilize social media profiles in much the same way that major corporations use them: to listen to their consumers, to address concerns, and to engage in other customer service-related tasks. Imagine if patients felt uncomfortable in a particular clinic’s waiting room because it was always too cold, the music the front desk played was irritating, etc. It would benefit the clinic to be able to monitor tweets or posts about how people felt during their waiting room stay and to tweak any recurring issues that arose. The social media profiles wouldn’t only be used as complaint walls, though; they could also serve as a great place to gather inspiring stories and testimonials from patients who are eager to share. Other users considering being treated at that clinic can view those testimonials and that will increase the likelihood that those users will choose that clinic for treatment.