Sunday, August 11, 2013

Are direct healthcare providers missing the importance of social networking?

In an article that received little fanfare in healthcare circles, the Pew Research Center issued a study on the social networking by online adults.  And this has profound implications for the healthcare industry that has been slow to adapt to social networking in meaningful ways. Which raises the question, are healthcare organizations missing the opportunity to increase adherence, engagement and experience by participating in the social networking usage revolution by adults?
 
In an interesting study, Internet Social Networking, Joanne Brenner, August 5, 2013 points to an accelerating trend of online adults actively engaged in social networking platforms. And if I remember correctly adults age 50 and above consume healthcare resources and would be a prime audience to engage in many levels.  I summarize but only seven percent of online adults participated in social networking in February 2005 compared to 60 percent of adults age 50-64 in May of 2013.
 
But wait it gets even better. For the 65+ crowd, only one percent, that’s right one percent participated in social networking in 2006. Today that number is up to 43 percent of online adults 65+. And adults over age 65 are growing in online presence each and every day.
 
I find it interesting from a marketing standpoint that healthcare providers are slow to adapt to technologies and changing healthcare consumer behaviors, that can made a real measurable impact and difference in experience, engagement and adherence.  That’s not to say that you will ever be their BFF on any of the social networking sites, but it is a way to reach out and engage. It is a way to influence the patient and healthcare consumer experience.  Social networking is a different way that could be used to drive adherence to improve health.  And how many ways can you think of to use social networking for managing population health?
 
This isn’t your kid’s facebook anymore.
 
Social networking sites are not billboards.  They are opportunities to establish a meaningful relationship and engage the healthcare consumer. And in my travels, I see way too much of healthcare providers social networking as being nothing more than running billboard. No attempts to define the healthcare consumer experience. No integration of social network strategy or platforms.  
 
I am not sure if its lack of marketing leadership in healthcare organizations or if its healthcare senior leadership not knowing what they don’t know, or they are blocking meaningful use of the marketing channel because they think it has no relevance in world?
 
But this I do know, as healthcare continues the evolution to a healthcare consumer dominated semi-retail environment, social networking is a healthcare marketing channel that is underutilized and underperforms today, but holds great potential to improve engagement, experience and adherence. And that takes healthcare marketing leadership, executive vision and meaningful action.
 
So even if you Mr. Mrs. or Ms. Healthcare Executive are not engaged in social networking and think it’s a bunch of hooey, the healthcare consumer aka the patient is very active, and they could be talking about you.
 
After all, my 89 year old Aunt is active on facebook and LinkedIn. It’s one of the ways that I can keep in contact with her.  Don’t you think it might behoove you to do the same?

Michael J. Krivich, MHA, FACHE, PCM, is an internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger with over 5,000 monthly pages views read in over 52 countries worldwide on Healthcare Marketing Matters. These views are my own. He is founder of the michael J group, a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association.  Like us on facebook at the michael J group, and connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pheed

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