Healthcare organizations lag in social media activity, study finds


NEW YORK — Social media open many new opportunities for healthcare organizations to engage consumers and are changing the nature of healthcare interaction, according to a new report by PwC's Health Research Institute.

The report, "Social media likes healthcare: From marketing to social business," called social media activity by hospitals, health insurers and drug companies "minuscule" and found that while 8-in-10 healthcare companies had a social media presence, health-related community sites had 24 times more social media activity than corporate sites, noting that the finding held significant implications for businesses looking to capitalize on social media opportunities.

"Health organizations have an opportunity to use social media as a way to better listen, participate in discussions and engage with consumers in ways that extend their interaction beyond a clinical encounter," PwC U.S. health industries leader Kelly Barnes said. "Savvy adopters are viewing social media as a business strategy, not just a marketing tool."

In addition, the study found that one-third of consumers use social media sites for seeking medical information, tracking and sharing symptoms, and sharing their thoughts about doctors, treatments and health plans. Meanwhile, between 20% and 40% had used social media to find health-related consumer reviews and information about other patients' experiences, or had posted information about their experiences or joined a health forum or community. Forty-five percent said information found through social media would affect their decision to get a second opinion, while 41% said it would affect their choice of a specific doctor or treatment center; 34% said it would affect their decision about taking a certain medication, and 32% said it would affect their choice of a health insurance plan. Overall, more than 80% of consumers between 18 and 24 years said they were likely to share health information through social media channels, while 90% said they would trust information found there, compared with 45% of those between 45 and 64 years who said they would share health information.

The report includes data from a recent Health Research Institute social media survey of more than 1,000 consumers in the United States; 124 members of the eHealth Initiative, a health information and technology organization comprising various industry organizations; interviews with more than 30 industry executives; and a survey of the social media activity of several hospitals, insurers, drug companies and patient communities.

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