Weekly Webinar: Social Media in the Healthcare Industry

Last Friday here from Hong Kong we presented a weekly training on trends in social media in the healthcare space. For those of you working with pharmaceutical companies or healthcare providers, we revealed ways to get in on the conversation and some examples of who’s on the forefront of it, especially in Asia. There are two distinct audiences in this space which are utilizing social media in unique ways:

1) The Consumer-Patient

2) Physicians/Healthcare Providers

Consumers have become increasingly empowered to take their health into their own hands via the Internet, gaining access to vast medical information portals, self-monitoring and self-diagnosis tools, and peer support social networks. In China, for example, 80% of consumers conduct online research before consulting their doctors. In Asia, bringing these tools to mobile phones has been key in increasing access to more reliable health information. This is evidenced by the rise of mobile health apps, which indulge our burgeoning obsession with ‘the quantified self.’ However, it can also be as simple as being able to SMS a network of doctors for answers to pressing questions in real-time.  SMS remains a powerful tool to connect patients and doctors in Asia (See mDhil.com in India and Buddyworks in the Philippines). As questions of trust persist in the healthcare industry, Asians increasingly refer to social networks to confirm or deny rumors or to simply look for the most credible answers. Likewise, social networks serve as a strong source of support for others going through a similar experience.

From the physician’s point of view, they have to now manage this newly empowered patient, who comes to them armed with information and data gathered online. They find they are having to make themselves more accessible via a multiplicity of channels while adhering to established codes of ethics and confidentiality (as often official regulatory guidelines about physicians’ social media conduct are lacking). Indeed doctors are now blogging and on instant messaging services, out to raise awareness as well as their own profile in their field. Eighty percent of Chinese doctors use online resources for general medical news or to stay up to date with clinical information. There has been an absolute explosion in doctors’ social networks. Check out DXY.cn in China for proof, where over 2 million doctors converse, exchange knowledge, and set up professional profiles. These networks are popular in Asia particularly where doctors don’t have access to the multitude of hard copy peer review journals as in the West. They are looking to stay current with research and cross-reference solutions for their patients. Like their patients, doctors are increasingly embracing mobile technologies to facilitate patient care and research.

All the major pharma companies have a social media presence but face intense scrutiny and increasing regulation. So what value can the pharma maker provide to the social media savvy patient/doctor?

  • Curate credible and trustworthy medical information. Become a destination for reliable answers for disease management, not just a brochure of products
  • Facilitate conversation and support networks. Bring those facing similar challenges together
  • Give them useful tools that are relevant to your products and their lives. Breathe branded utility
  • Be transparent, open and honest. Display a willingness to exchange information and care
  • Gather intelligence from these forums to innovate and spur R&D

Thoughts? Questions? Additional insights? Leave your comment below or email me at lisa.werner@ogilvy.com.