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Social Media and the Health Care Industry


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I recently wrote a piece for Virilion, the interactive agency I work for in Washington, D.C., about social media and the health care industry. The article focused on common questions that clients in the health care industry have about social media. Since we work with many hospital clients at Virilion, the article was geared toward facts and information about how patients use the web.

For example, did you know that 61% of American Adults look for health care information online? And, the majority of those people said that using the web affected a medical decision. If you’re involved in making marketing decision for a hospital or another sector of the health care industry, check it out to learn more.

Social Media and the Health Care Industry

The article was published by Green Buzz Agency, a video production and social media shop here in Washington, D.C.

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Social Media and the Health Care Industry

  1. 1. Social Media and the Health Care Industry June 30, 2010 – Anna Heatherly, Virilion Many clients in the health care industry have recently come to us with questions about social media. Many of them want to know why social media matters and where it should fit into their marketing plans. Others want to know where to get started and how to build and maintain a successful Facebook Page, Twitter Account, YouTube Channel or blog. But more and more, clients are simply looking for help understanding the social media landscape and how it impacts health care decisions. While there is no easy answer to any of these questions, there are a few things you should know if you’re thinking about developing a social media strategy for your hospital or organization: 61% of American Adults Look Online for Health Information The number of American adults who looked for health information online has doubled in under a decade. That’s according to a 2009 Pew Internet Research study, which found that 61 percent of adults look online for healthcare information, while only 25 percent of American adults looked online for this information in 2000. Three-quarters of American adults aged 18 or older, have access to the Internet either at home or at work. Eighty-three percent of those users have looked online for information about health topics ranging from information about a specific disease, treatments, alternative medicine, health insurance, health care providers, medical facilities and ways to stay healthy. 24% of Patients Have Consulted Reviews of Medical Facilities Online Just as more Americans turn to the Web to find recommendations on restaurants and local vendors, patients visit blogs and websites to find rankings and reviews of doctors, hospitals and medical facilities. According to Pew, health consumers looking for information, inspiration and support often turn to blogs or websites with user-generated rankings or reviews to find solutions: • 41% of patients have read someone else’s commentary or experience about health or medical issues on an online news group, website or blog • 24% of patients online have consulted rankings or reviews of doctors or providers • 24% of patients online have consulted rankings or reviews of hospitals or medical facilities More than 700 U.S. Hospitals Use Social Networking Tools More and more patients look to connect directly with healthcare providers via social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. In addition to using the Web for health information and disease support, patients want information and updates in real-time, just like they get from others in their online communities. Hospitals have started to get the picture, using social networks to connect with consumers, making it easier for patients to better understand products and services, and allow health providers to demonstrate clinical expertise, build trust and deliver valued information to an engaged audience. In June 2010, Found in Cache, an online resource for health care professionals, found that 744 U.S. hospitals were active on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube:
  2. 2. − 549 Twitter Accounts − 513 Facebook Pages − 337 YouTube Channels 60% of Patients Active Online Say Using the Web Affected a Medical Decision Online health queries impact medical decisions. Among patients who researched health information online, the majority of respondents said the Internet had an impact on their own health or the way they care for someone else. Of the information found online: • 60% said it affected a decision about how to treat an illness or condition • 56% said it changed their overall approach to maintaining their health or the health of someone they care for • 53% said it led them to ask a doctor new questions, or to get a second opinion • 49% said it changed the way they thought about their diet, exercise or stress management • 38% said it affected their decision to see a doctor • 38% said it changed the way they cope with a chronic condition or manage pain Takeaway for Health Care Professionals: Social Media is Part of Our Culture “It’s time to get rid of the term ‘social media’ and call it ‘media,’ because there really isn’t a difference,” according to Shel Holtz, principal of Holtz Communications and the media manager for the Mayo Clinic. Today, eight of the top 20 most visited websites in the U.S. are social media based: Top Sites in the United States 1. Google 11. Blogger 2. Facebook 12. MSN 3. Yahoo 13. MySpace 4. YouTube 14. Go 5. Amazon 15. AOL 6. Wikipedia 16. Bing 7. Craigslist 17. CNN 8. eBay 18. LinkedIn 9. Twitter 19. ESPN 10. WindowsLive 20. Wordpress Updated June 29, 2010 from As you can see, social media connects health care providers to patients, while helping to accomplish marketing goals. While the Internet is no substitute for health care professionals and the care they provide, it can help hospitals and healthcare providers reach patients who are deepening their engagement with the online world. Can information about your hospital, clinical expertise or services be found in the places people are looking? If not, now is the perfect time to get started!
  3. 3. Anna Heatherly is an Account Executive at Virilion in Washington, DC and an award-winning internet marketer with five years experience in digital strategy and public relations. Specializing in a variety of digital marketing tactics including advertising, email, search and social media, Anna has helped dozens of clients navigate the digital landscape to achieve their business goals. At Virilion, Anna helps clients reach online influencers, build and activate communities across the web, and utilize digital channels to drive awareness and advocacy. She can be reached at . Follow @Virilion and @AnnaHeatherly on Twitter for more updates and information on social media and the web.