If you think of your practice website as your digital storefront, have you ever wondered why more customers aren’t “knocking on your door?
It may be because they’re all hanging out together at the virtual coffee shop down the street. According to a new report by PwC’s Health Research Institute, community-oriented sites show as much as 24 times more social media activity than sites managed by health care companies.
And they’re not sitting around sipping double-tall lattes, either. Surveying 1,060 consumers, the report — Social media “likes” healthcare — found that:
- One-third of consumers use social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and online forums for health-related matters, including seeking medical information and broadcasting how they feel about doctors, drugs and treatments.
- 45% of consumers said social media would affect their decision to get a second opinion; 41% said it would affect their choice of a specific provider, and 34% said it would affect their decision about taking a certain medication.
- Four in 10 consumers say they have used social media to find health-related consumer reviews (e.g. of treatments or physicians); one in three have sought information related to other patients’ experiences with their disease; one in four have “posted” about their health experience; and one in five have joined a health forum or community.
The data, of course, only underscores the reality that patients are becoming more empowered all the time and that social media is changing the nature of doctor-patient interactions. And while that frightens some providers, it’s worth noting that 80% of the interactions studied were characterized as neutral and just 5% were construed as negative. Contrary to preconceived notions, most patients don’t go online to complain; they go online to find information, seek out support and share their experiences.
Put it all together and it’s clear that social media provides an incredible opportunity for doctors to connect with patients, especially when the connection takes place where those patients already are.
As Ed Bennett, director of Web & Communications Technology at the University of Maryland Medical Center, says, If you want to connect with people and be part of their community, you need to go where the community is.
Once you’ve spent some time with them there, they’re far more likely to find their way to your virtual door. From social media to social business, the journey can be as productive for doctors as it is for patients.