A few years ago my husband was complaining of pains on one side of his stomach. He was quick to write it off, telling me he must have eaten some bad chili and was going to try to get some sleep. Always the worrier, I got onto WebMD and quickly found his symptoms were classic signs of appendicitis. Thankfully he listened and we raced to the ER before his appendix burst.
As it turns out, I’m not alone in looking online for medical answers. According to the Pew Research Center, finding health information is one of the three most popular online activities among adults. Much of this time is spent on social networks, talking with people who share the same health condition. And it’s not just younger generations who are chatting on Facebook and other sites. The number of social networking users age 50 and older has doubled from 22 to 42 in the past year alone.
These trends are compelling healthcare brands to figure out how to engage in these online communities. That’s why we were thrilled to have Melissa Davies, Strategic Account Director for Healthcare at NM Incite lead a recent AMA webinar focused on social media in healthcare.
As trust grows in health information online, NM Incite is seeing huge growth in patient-driven conversations around conditions such as breast cancer, depression, ADHD, and Alzheimer’s Disease. Patients and care givers are sharing personal experiences, discussing treatment regimens–and sharing pros and cons about specific brands. In fact, 20 percent of online discussions are around brands, such as efficacy of medications or experiences with side effects. Consumers are increasingly reaching out to their social communities to ask questions about new medications or treatment options they’re considering.
This has major implications for healthcare brands.
- Patients, not brands, are driving the conversation.
- Brands need to understand the size and scope of patient engagement around treatment areas that are relevant to them so they can drive decisions around where and how to engage in social media.
- Listening to social media discussions helps brands understand the patient “lexicon” so they can better connect with patients — and determine whether they need to do a better job of setting patient expectations.
- When a brand is in crisis (such as during a product recall), there’s a very narrow window of time to respond online to help turn the conversation around.
- Although these highly regulated brands face restrictions about what they can say online, there are ways they can engage with patients and show that they’re listening to their concerns.
To learn more, check out the full AMA webcast. I think you’ll find it very informative!