What’s Up Doc?
The intersection of social media and healthcare would seem like both an obvious and an impossible thing. Obvious, because there is nothing more personal than the patient and their care provider. Impossible because the practice of healthcare in the U.S. is a foreboding complex of rules, prohibitions, mandates, restrictions and protocols. When you last spoke to your doctor (nurse, dentist, tech, etc.) was it a trust-building interaction? An exchange of data? Do you even want to befriend your healthcare team? Would an e-mail help? Would a video chat help?
How important are your online connections? In my case the best of them are almost exclusively ones with people that I’ve met in “real life” as well at some point. Whether exchanging e-mails, tweets, FB posts, or Linkedin recommendations, I feel more comfortable if the face-to-face element is also a part of the relationship. Some services are out there that help you “meet new people” through social networks, which may be the wave of the future. Eleven years ago I met my husband through an online dating network, and I used Dailymile.com as a way to meet and interact with other runners. Still, my network expands slowly. Since I don’t actually know 1,000 people, I’m not sure I want to “friend” that many on social networks. Your mileage may, of course, vary.
It’s often stated about customer service that complaints are more common than compliments and that a single unhappy person will tell more friends than a dozen happy ones. According to my favorite online review site, however, more than half of the write-ups they get are highly favorable. Turns out the reviews I’ve written myself are evenly split between praise and condemnation. When you’re trying to find a place to eat, or a good doctor, or a car repair shop, you could just “ask around” or you could go online. Which makes more sense?
In my working life (for a healthcare organization), I’m focused on how to spread health-related messages to the greatest number of people in the most effective way. Prior to my day, my colleagues used traditional media (subway and bus stop banners, radio ads, etc), but since we no longer have funding for that, social media has been our venue. We’re learning that it’s not easy, it’s not “free” and it’s not always as far-reaching as we’d like. My only consolation is that when I review what my competitors are doing, it’s not clear they’ve got the answer either. Driving my Mother through central New Jersey this weekend I noticed that many healthcare groups are relying on billboards to get their message across. Personally, I’ll stick to Facebook and Youtube.