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A Guide to Using Social Media in the Health Industry

With more than 1 in 3 people using social media to look for information on healthcare, it is more important than ever that healthcare organisation take advantage of social media in order to better promote their products and services and build lasting relationships with their customer base.

Whilst the demand is most definitely out there, among patients, doctors and organisations alike, the question is more regarding the use and application of social media within the industry. In a sector facing financial pressures and increased time and staff demands, just what use can social media serve?

Medical Training

Several healthcare organisations have found social media benefits when implementing the networking tools in line with their medical training program. Healthcare training is a complex process and being able to leverage the power of social media to aid in the learning and training of healthcare professionals can provide significant benefits to the training experience.

Social networks like Facebook, Twitter and medical specific communities like Sermo give students and teachers a place to share and collaborate on information and an opportunity to ask questions and increase their knowledge.

The live response nature of Twitter gives presenters the chance to receive immediate feedback, useful if the information is unclear or if more guidance is needed in a particular area.

Social media sites also provide a platform for healthcare organisations to share their communications and marketing efforts to a wider audience via a series of presentations, videos, slideshows and pictures.

Get Your Voice Heard

More and more journalists are using social media in order to source and break stories quicker, with social sites often ahead of traditional print media in being able to provide live stories and reaction to news across the world.

As a consequence social media channels are a highly effective means to generating media coverage and stories on the issues prevalent to your organisation. With global healthcare a widely discussed issue, this can be successful in getting the voice and thoughts of healthcare organisations out to a wider audience.

Several healthcare organisations can make use of social network sites, blogs and forums to share information and news from research results, to operating successes.

Crisis Communications

Healthcare and aid organisations are often pushed to the forefront during times of crisis. Natural disasters like floods and earthquakes place hospitals and other healthcare organisations at the centre. Social media allows for real time communications and updates to be provided to all those affected or concerned by the incident, ensuring important information reaches those needing it, in a timely and convenient manner.

Live Tweeting

Social media can help in providing access to the inner workings of healthcare organisations. By giving the general public a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes, social media can aid in raising awareness for a healthcare organisation or particular health issue. One hospital even went so far as to live tweet a procedure which drew doctors and medical students from around the world in to following the event.

Inform Patients

Close to 75% of patients use the internet to source medical information when awaiting or following a medical appointment. Given the vast volume of, often inaccurate or misinformed, information available on the web, and the potentially damaging consequences of this, it is important for healthcare organisations to inform patients as often and quickly as possible.

Social media can act as a further communication channel, allowing organisations and patients to share accurate information in a quick and convenient manner. Social sites and forums provide places for patients to share health problems and concerns with genuine professionals in a safe environment.

Whether it is collaborating on ground-breaking research, keeping people up to date on the latest news or simply providing a more pleasant and caring patient experience, the benefits from social media are vast and can be a major player in the communications and marketing of any healthcare organisation.

Ross Moffat writes on a number of topics covering Healthcare PR and Marketing, and has been a freelance writer for London PR Agency Beattie Communications, for the past two years.

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