Social media is huge. Starting with MySpace, then FaceBook, and others in the mix including YouTube, LinkedIn, and others, hundreds of millions of users around the world are hooked on social media. With the advent of smart phone technology, the increase in cell phones exponentially around the globe has also driven increased socialization of media content and personal information. Some of the info is good, and some not so good. However, there is valuable material to be found on social media sites, including health care topics and how to improve your life for your own personal welfare and those around you.
Some of the material on FaceBook (FB), now with over 500 million members, is for consumers and some is designed for professionals. For example, this website is geared for helping professional health care providers by listing the Top 25 FB health care links for that group: http://onlinelpntorn.org/2011/top-25-facebook-apps-for-healthcare-professionals/ . If you are a medical professional or in the health care field, then you should be sourcing info on this page.
Patients and consumers are also getting into the act. According to the Dayton Business Journal, more users are relying on the social networking site for health information. In fact, 41 percent of people said they use social media as a health care resource, according to a National Research Corporation survey of over 23,000 people. Most of them -- 94 percent -- said they turned to Facebook for medical content such as diet and exercise tips and health education videos. And some respondents even said the information was likely to impact their future health decisions. With more citizens turning to social media for health care decisions, hospitals and other health care providers are taking steps to ramp up their social media presence. Patients are using these social media sites for multiple purposes such as:
• To view health education videos;
• Get diet and exercise tips;
• Learn about upcoming health events; and
• Study disease awareness and
• Health statistics.
Among health care providers with Facebook pages, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's site has more than 80,000 fans, while the American Cancer Society has over 225,000 fans. Recent posts on the CDC's page give smoking cessation tips, statistics on prescription drug-related deaths and ways to improve your diet. On WebMD's Facebook site, the latest content includes exercise tips for adult workouts and children's active video games. The site, which has over 53,000 fans, also uses health issues in the news to raise awareness among readers.
According to Social Media Today, In a new survey by the National Research Corporation, one in every five Americans use social media for healthcare information, specifically Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter (in order of popularity). Hospitals in particular are getting into the social media frenzy. General ways hospitals benefit from a strategic social presence:
•To listen and monitor its brand.
•Ability to administer real-time customer service.
•Creation of brand ambassadors – people who promote the organization without an agenda.
•Creation of a community who WANTS to stay connected.
•Cost-effective method to disseminate information quickly.
•Communities ripe for qualitative research gathering (focus groups, poll, etc.).
•Additional tool in crisis situations (natural disasters such as Haiti, Japan,).
•Media relationships, alternative to news releases.
According to Social Media Today, here are industry-specific ways hospitals and health care facilities can use social media:
•Preventative healthcare – use as an educational platform.
•Way to tell inspirational stories (positive happenings) that happen every day.
•Practice interactive healthcare – which is about engaging everyone in the “process of care.” This includes empowering physicians and healthcare professionals to participate. “Interactive health is about making health knowledge, supportive care, and motivation available to us, anytime and anywhere, so that we can integrate this wisdom into our daily actions to live longer, healthier, happier lives.” – Forbes (Read the full article.)
Navigating the path to affordable health coverage can be tricky, especially for young adults. You may be in and out of school, changing jobs, or moving all around the country, according to HealthCare.gov. After the passage of PPACA, the Affordable Care Act, you may have access to consistent health insurance coverage. Before the Affordable Care Act, health plans could remove enrolled children usually at age 19, sometimes older for full-time students. Now, most health plans that cover children must make coverage available to young adults up to age 26. Parents just need to enroll their children during the appropriate open enrollment period. This gives young adults the flexibility to look for jobs and pursue the higher education of their choice. And the government has a FB page designed for this specific situation. Check out the page at: http://www.facebook.com/YoungAdultCoverage .
According to the Dayton Business Journal, The main appeal of the media for patients, is the ability to have an immediate two-way conversation with their providers. In contrast to a health organization's Web site that only states information, Facebook provides patients with the opportunity to ask questions and share their opinions. The medium acts as a forum for health care discussions among people as well as health professionals. Patients can link to others with similar illnesses, ask their health provider questions and give feedback on their health facilities. However, the concern some professionals in medicine have is to not violate any HIPAA regulations. So the need for privacy still remains a huge issue when dealing with the patient/provider relationship.
There are boundaries that cannot be crossed for both legal and for ethical reasons. Despite many benefits, gaining health information from social media also has some negatives. While the Facebook pages give patients quick, convenient access to health information from their homes, some medical professionals also worry about the release of inaccurate health information and how people will utilize it. Social media has been a great boon for health care, but there are a few drawbacks, especially when patients want immediate answers but cannot access that information because they are not permitted to view private medical info in a public forum.
However, there are many health care companies using FaceBook and other social media with great success, not only for informational purposes to consumers, but also as an avenue to increase their business and presence in the market place. For example, For example, Careington International occasionally offers special deals on discount health care (www.careington.com/co/mc) through FaceBook. CIGNA has a presence on Linked In (http://www.linkedin.com/company/cigna), and Aetna Global Benefits (AGB) members have access to an additional online resource designed to help them easily navigate their benefits and achieve their optimal health. Aetna’s international business segment launched its presence on Face Book in early 2010, specifically designed to enhance the service experience for the organization’s more than 400,000 members located worldwide.
Social media is here to stay. Health care needs to take a lesson--no more old school. New school rules!
Until next time.