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A new report by PwC found consumers are increasingly turning to social media websites like Facebook and Twitter to find answers to their healthcare concerns, and that this frequently results in seeking out second opinions for previously diagnosed problems.
The PwC Report, titled “Social Media ‘Likes’ Healthcare”, includes results of a social media survey of 124 members for the eHealth Initiative carried out by its Health Research Institute (HRI), which revealed that 80 percent of healthcare companies were using social media and had a presence on social media websites.
The eHealth Initiative (eHI) is a national organization launched more than ten years ago that focuses on healthcare information and technology with a mission to “drive improvement in the quality, safety, and efficiency of healthcare through information and technology.”
PwC’s HRI also developed a “week in the life of social health” snapshot by following the social media activity of numerous hospitals, online patient communities, drug companies, and insurers, and supplementing this information by carrying out interviews with over 30 industry executives. PwC’s Daniel Garrett explained the importance of this social media healthcare survey: “Social media is another source of business intelligence that provides information at the aggregate level, not only about what the consumers ‘like’, but what they need, how they behave, and when their experiences demand an immediate response.”
Garret, who is U.S. Health Information Technology Leader for PwC, said most health organizations have the ability to use their IT in order to engage and integrate with current systems, yet these companies are bogged down dealing with the data in their own systems.
HRI’s found that 82 percent of those surveyed said their organization’s efforts at using social media were carried out by marketing and communication staff. Further, PwC said only a small number of organizations reported that their social media strategies were handled by IT departments and digital teams.
While the proportion of health care organizations with a presence on social media sites is impressive at 80 percent of those surveyed, the activity by these hospitals, drug companies, and insurers is very small in comparison to the activity on community sites, which boasted a level of social media activity 24 times higher.
PwC’s Healthcare leader Kelly Barnes said the results of the survey show social media has become a new customer service point for the consumer, and this is good for both the consumer and the organization: “Health organizations have an opportunity to use social media as a better way to listen, participate in discussions, and engage with consumers in ways that extend their interaction beyond a clinical encounter.”
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