Social Media Use in Healthcare Organizations
The world has significantly shifted from using the World Wide Web to using the social media over the last decade. Individuals are permitted by the social media to generate and share their ideas, experiences and information through the web in a more conversational manner. Apart from the social media being quick and easy to use, its cost is low when compared to that of the other media. Its access is also significantly broader. Today, there are many social media networks including Facebook which has over 751 million users. YouTube is another site that is accessed by almost 2 billion people daily. Twitter has more than 500 million users, LinkedIn about 238 million users while Instagram has 130 million users.
One of the industries that use the social media in broadcasting messages is the entire health sector. Social media has proven its effectiveness in the health sector when it comes to expanding the reach, promoting engagement and enhancing access to science-based and reliable health messages. Fox (2011) notes that there are two key drivers that continue to compel health organizations to use the social media. These are social media accessibility and the increasing activity and desire, especially among the people with chronic conditions who want to maintain contact with one another.
Technology Tools Involved in Social Media
Buttons and Badges
In the social media’s context, buttons refer to graphic elements that have a short-call for an action message. It is a link and an image that directs users to further information. Once developed, buttons are shared and their HTML code allows for easy sharing through a website. On the other hand, badges are small-size graphic images with message and a link to a web page. Badges are mostly found on the profile of a social network user.
Image sharing refers to a tool that is used in posting images on a social network website so that people can see them, tag, group and even use them in categories of more people (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014).
RSS simply means Really Simple Syndication. They are tools that provide an easy way of updating oneself with information regarding the important issues while reducing the time required for searching or browsing the web to find fresh information. The feeds provide updated headlines, website content, and news via the social networks.
A podcast is a tool for audio and video sharing that can be used by partners to share custom messages or information via the social networks. YouTube is currently the leading site via which people share videos.
Widget refers to a tool that is used in displaying specific content through the social media. Such information includes customized healthcare messages that are shared through Facebook and Twitter. Widgets may also be shared among friends through social networks.
The Pros and Cons of Using Social Media in Healthcare Marketing
Social media enhance efficient dissemination of medical information. Considering the voluminous amount of wrong advice that is being given to healthcare patients, marketing healthcare through the social media provides a unique opportunity that healthcare marketers can use to offer thoughtful leadership on several topics including allergies, diabetes and geriatric medicine. Dissemination of actionable and accurate information improves the wellbeing and general health of the public while increasing the revenues of the organizations.
Social media enhances healthcare access globally. It allows people to share information at a once unimaginable speed even while at distant places. It offers new chances of disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention. Using the tools of the social media, healthcare organizations can provide quality healthcare to individuals who may have otherwise not been able to access medical advice. In regards to marketing, offering and dispensing services in the healthcare sector, social media are also a cost-effective method.
Healthcare markers can now follow up customers via the social media. Through the social media, healthcare markers can listen to the views of their customers regarding their organizations, services, products and brands (Courtney, 2013). Essentially, marketers can monitor competitors’ activities in the social media as well as what consumers say about their competitors.
Finally, social media offer a collaborative platform with unmatched opportunities that healthcare marketers can use to increase profits of their organizations. Healthcare institutions that have quickly invested in the social media functions and tools have been able to respond to various issues that are related to the consumption of healthcare services and products adequately.
Healthcare professionals or organizations can be exposed to legal liability within the state laws by the social media if its use violates individuals’ privacy. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the U.S regulate the disclosure and use of confidential patient’s information by hospitals, doctors as well as other providers of healthcare (Lambert, Barry & Stokes, 2012).
Consequently, using the social media to market healthcare has significant risks for the healthcare professionals and organizations that might share the information protected by HIPAA. For instance, a doctor can be held legally liable if he tweets information during a surgery that is beyond what was authorized by the patient. The doctor may be sued by the patient for violating the privacy of the patient. Similarly, the plaintiff can launch a malpractice claim because the doctor tweeted while performing a surgery.
Secondly, the Copyright Act of the United States can cause a civil or criminal liability if a healthcare professional or organization posts information that relates to content of a third-party on the social network. Additionally, the on-going reforms in the healthcare sector have made electronic health data, telemedicine as well as internet communications between a physician and a patients increasingly a part of patient-doctor relationship. This has made sharing of this information via the social media unethical and illegal (Lau, Gabarron, Fern’, Ez-Luque & Armayones, 2012).
Consequently, lack of a clear definition of the limit of personal and professional communication between a doctor and his Facebook friends may attract both ethical and legal challenges. In addition, an electronic communication record can be used as evidence of the existing doctor-patient relationship which may expose professionals and their organizations to medical malpractice or patient abandonment.
Social Media and the Traditional Marketing Tactics
Social media should be used by healthcare marketers alongside the tactics of traditional marketing. Firstly, the social media may have a broad scope but it is not completely exhaustive. Some people, especially the elderly people still have trust in the traditional techniques of marketing healthcare. Nevertheless, traditional tactics of marking healthcare are insufficient. The nature of traditional tactics binds them.
This means that marketers push services and products to customers as well as potential patients in one direction using channels like radio ads, TVs and print. On the other hand, social media presents an inbound tactic of marketing healthcare. Despite being relevant, traditional tactics (outbound) of marketing healthcare are declining since most people are now in control of the healthcare information that they receive as well as where the information comes from. Traditional tactics of marketing healthcare give the controls to the healthcare organizations.
Currently, this is different because about 80% of all healthcare consumers trust recommendations from friends while about 16% trust recommendations from adverts (Lewis, 2011). Healthcare consumers share information about drugs, healthcare products, physicians, diseases, and hospitals through the platforms of the social media which include Facebook, Twitter and YouTube among others.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014). Social media tools for consumers and partners – image sharing. Retrieved on 2 January 2014 from: <http://www.cdc.gov/socialmedia/tools/ImageSharing.html>
Courtney, K. (2013). The use of social media in healthcare: organizational, clinical, and patient perspectives. Enabling health and healthcare through ICT: available, tailored and closer, 183 p. 244.
Fox, S. (2011). The social life of health information, 2011. Retrieved on 2 January 2014 from: <http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/Social-Life-of-Health-Info.aspx>
Lambert, K. M., Barry, P. & Stokes, G. (2012). Risk management and legal issues with the use of social media in the healthcare setting. Journal of healthcare risk management, 31 (4), pp. 41–47.
Lau, A., Gabarron, E., Fern’, Ez-Luque, L. & Armayones Ruiz, M. (2012). Social media in health. What are the safety concerns for healthcare consumers? Health information management journal, 41 (2), pp. 30–35.
Lewis, D. (2011). The multidimensional role of social media in healthcare. Interactions, 18 (4), pp. 17–21.