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Rx to Communicate: The E-Patient Will See You Now

Across the multidisciplinary fields of healthcare, social media is thriving and facilitating understanding through the availability of health information sources, dynamic communication tools and two-way ongoing symmetrical conversations. Nowhere is there a greater need to meet the demand for increased communication and trust than between patient and healthcare practitioners and patient and healthcare brands.

Pew Research recently reported that 60% of people search for the health experiences of “someone like me.” E-patients are using social media to gain other patients’ perspectives on decision-making and beyond. With blogs, Facebook communities and daily tweets of health status or information, social media in healthcare is changing the very practice of medicine.

While there are concerns across many healthcare systems regarding legal and privacy issues, the social media conversation is proving difficult to regulate. E-patients are finding new ways to seek diagnostic support with healthcare professionals. And in some countries, branded and unbranded product education and promotions from marketers in the pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device and diagnostics industries are driving the online conversation.

Physicians themselves are embracing social media and trusting online education and patient support resources. Tactics like brand-sponsored patient communities (such as PKU.com and the HER Story Community), non-brand sponsored communities (such as dLife and Patients Like Me) and exclusive healthcare professional communities (DocCheck, Medscape Physician Connect and Sermo) are changing the landscape.

Bottom line: social media is empowering patients to seek solutions and this, in part, is improving connections with healthcare providers online and off. While we are witnessing dynamic evolution within many healthcare systems around the globe with the diagnosis and treatment of various illnesses or medical conditions, the touchpoints and channels that are being advanced online are helping provide a holistic approach to addressing unmet patient needs and communicating with patients on their terms.

From physician practices to pharmaceutical companies, we must now consider how best to connect with patients and facilitate an unparalleled and ongoing engagement.

This post was originally published by Mario Nacinovich in Digital Thinking: Insights Into an Evolving Online World, Spring 2011 edition.