By Sebastian Pistritto
The medical industry continues to be challenged when it comes to patient non-adherence to proper medical advice concerning medications. What is clear is that patients today, more than ever, want to better understand their health issues. They want to learn, ask questions, seek out advice and be educated. In general, consumers want to communicate with doctors and hospitals, and they want the medical industry to help them understand their medical issues and be a part of their conversation.
Consumers are actively researching, networking and asking questions about their health and how to adopt a healthier lifestyle. This requires the medical industry to provide more patient-centered care. The key for the medical industry is not just to react, but rather to bring to the table the ability to manage patients while they’re already healthy, as opposed to waiting for adverse events, thereby improving outcomes and reducing costs.
For the medical industry to accomplish this will require different ways to communicate and encourage people to live a better and healthier lifestyle. The messages, which should resonate with patients, are to be proactive with their personal care and to take simple action every day to monitor and manage their medical conditions (chronic or not), rather than letting these conditions consume their lifestyle.
Over the last several years, social media has become a gathering place for consumers
to openly discuss their medical conditions with other members of the social media
community. This has given consumers an outlet to find people with similar issues and
connect with them, and share and learn from other’s experiences. Additionally, the
medical industry is also leveraging social media with their own physician-only social
sites, which allow them to connect with other physicians across the globe in order to
share ideas, research data and medical approaches.
Social media has quickly become one of the vehicles to reach out to patients proactively
and, when utilized properly, can help the medical industry become part of the patients’
dialogue across these sites.
The key to the success of social media is to understand the platform and how to best
utilize the tools, and how patients want to be communicated with across the social
media spectrum. The more popular social media sites include Twitter, Facebook and
YouTube. Each of these sites has different tools to engage and connect with.
Below are some examples of best practices from different members of the medical
industry who are successfully managing their social media presence online.
The Fox Chase Cancer Center leverages YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/user/
FoxChaseCancerCenter) to proactively comment on the new breast cancer screening
guideline recommendations by the US, Preventive Task Force. It profiles physicians on a
medical topic and promotes patients’ success studies.
Penn Medicine, which provides diagnostic and therapeutic services for all endocrinologic
conditions, including disorders of the thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal and pituitary glands,
and calcium metabolism, as well as disorders of the testes and ovaries, is using YouTube
(http://www.youtube.com/user/pennmedicine) to convey the message that preventive
medicine and rehabilitation means a healthier and longer life. Patients can watch videos,
subscribe to the YouTube Channel, and post questions and concerns.
St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona is using Twitter
(http://twitter.com/StJosephs) to proactively communicate a tip of the day.
The University of Maryland Medical Center is using Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
The Medical Center’s YouTube channel (youtube.com/ummc) has over 160 videos,
which include doctors’ bios, patient testimonials and upcoming events. They currently
add 15-20 videos each month.
All the social media sites are helping the medical industry to proactively communicate
with consumers and help them learn how to live a healthier lifestyle. Specifically, the
social sites offer: daily health tips, reminders for routine checkups, video clips to provide
insight on medical issues, a discussion area for patients to ask questions, and medical
news and information that will lead patients to have a dialogue with their physician. The
University of Maryland Medical Center provides an “Ask the Expert” section on their
Leveraging the analytical Insights
The social media are rich with analytical tools to help medical professionals navigate and
understand patients’ concerns and online behavior. You can see what they are discussing online, and understand the topics they are concerned about. You can utilize this insight to help determine how best to help them with their questions and concerns. Social media can provide analytical insight in tracking brand reputation, so you can understand the patient perception and take proactive steps to reach out and help manage your reputation while, in return, building a respected relationship with the consumers.
The Mobile Device:
We are also seeing more medical-oriented mobile applications, which are also helping
with patient compliance. MedScape – from WebMD – is a phone application that
contains drug references, a drug-drug interaction checker, and a list of physicians.
The iChemoDiary from Merck is an iPhone application that provides a personal medical
diary to record one’s chemotherapy schedule, treatments, medication, and symptoms
such as nausea and vomiting. The VitaMinder iPhone application will send reminders
when to take vitamins and supplements.
All of these mobile applications exemplify a proactive approach to helping consumers
manage their health better and, in return, the medical industry is beginning to
understand patients’ needs and how they would like to be engaged.
The analytic tools for mobile usage will be able to tell you how many people have
downloaded the application and, potentially, how often they use it and what specific
topic they are interested in, by evaluating the topics they view the most and how they
are using the mobile application.
Today, more than ever, the medical industry is learning to proactively communicate to
consumers to educate and keep them informed. The medical community is starting to
become part of the online consumer dialogue. They are using the social media platform
as a way to provide advice, with ask the expert on Facebook, daily health tips on Twitter,
and 3- to 4-minute videos on patient issues across YouTube. All of this is building positive physician-patient relationships and is helping to ensure that patients remain compliant and adhere to medication. Social media has the opportunity to completely transform the way physicians deliver care, and the way patients receive it, as well as their relationship with their physician.
Sebastian Pistritto is president of Lorel Marketing Group - a brand engagement company aiding the success of leading lifestyle brands. Sebastian has over 20 years of multi-channel marketing communication, business development and technical Product Management experience in such industries as technology, health care, retail, automotive, financial, software and consumer electronics. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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