How Social Media Impacts Health Care, Research Paper Example
Words: 5878Research Paper
Social media has made an impact everywhere in the world. This tending technological concept is progressively becoming a part of our everyday lives. One major sector that social media has made a beneficial impact on is the health care industry. This report will explore how social media has affected the various components of the healthcare field and how we can benefit from its impact.
Researchers have examined the ways in which social media is affecting various aspects of the business world; however, very little research has been conducted on how social media can affect the healthcare field. Certainly, social media is not accessible and easily used by everyone, yet it is a great tool to those who are willing to use it. Members of the older generations may be more reluctant to use social media in the healthcare field.
How beneficial is social media in the healthcare field due to its ease of access versus traditional healthcare methods?
The health care industry, along with the rest of the world, was in a different place before the rise of social media. Lines of communication were limited to mostly phone calls or walk-ins, which inevitably requires long queues of consumers. It was simply inconvenient at the time as compared to how the majority of the health care industry operates today. It was not common for patients to share their health care related experiences with the vast majority of their family and friends, and even if they did, it was surely limited to just a few. If a patient or health care consumer wanted specific information on their health related issues, or had important questions to ask relevant to their circumstances, they surely did not have the access to the health care professionals that operate on social media platforms in today’s society. Fortunately, the rise of social media has made a profound impact on the health care industry and continues to do so at a progressive pace (Bacigalupe, 2011). Social media and networking is one of the most, if not the most, talked about severances to marketing that has occurred in decades. It has made an impact on just about every industry in existence, including its substantial impact to the health care industry. In a contemporary society, there are various roles that social media plays in this developing and innovative process in health care (Chou, 2009). In the contemporary environment, communications amongst the health care industry and the institutions within this industry can be problematic if lines of communications are not kept up to date. There is a lack of time to communicate and discuss problems as they come up. A simple annual plan review, phone call, or even meeting is often not enough. Patients need ways of finding the right health care plan for themselves as well as their families (Bacigalupe, 2011)
Social media offers prospective clients of various health care plans a vast array of information, such as how to apply for specific health care plans, how their current budget and finances can be applied to a health care plan of interest, which specific health care plans to meet their needs, which package health care plans are best for families, and to what extent certain health care plans cover them. This health care information found on social media platforms can better enhance trust in the health care system with easier access to disclosures and assistance where needed. An enriched health care profile can help identify informative plans in existing institutions, select plans that meet personal financial goals, and launch health care campaigns. In these ways health care institutions can gain actionable insight on consumer needs using such techniques as interest graph analysis and activity feed analysis as well as life events at an individual, friendly, and family level(Grajales, 2014)
Today, health care consumers have moved beyond just using the Internet as an information-gathering tool, to using both the Internet and mobile channels as an interactive, even social, experience. Social networks are growing at a fast pace; by 2017, the global social network audience is expected to total 2.55 billion. While still a minority, many health care providers want their institutions to get directly involved in contributing to discussions on social media, and nearly one in four are more likely to do business with an institution that they know they can interact with in a social media environment. Many health care institutions have responded by using social media to listen to their staff and monitor their operations with clients. However, they are not yet using it to generate tangible business benefits. With advances in optimization tools, analytics and software, social media is now much more a science than an art. It can be a very effective means to build a community and engage with the consumer in a more personal way. By harnessing the power of analytics and integrating social media insights holistically into the health care industry’s strategy to improve health care coverage, providers can drive growth, increase operational efficiency and reduce the overall workload in lines of communications (Lee, 2012). Health care providers can better leverage their use of social media to attract new methods of engaging with their prospective clients in various ways. For starters, health care providers should not be looking to use social media strictly to attract prospective clients to enroll into their programs and purchase health care packages. There are significant regulatory considerations, and in addition, these channels aren’t suitable for the delivery of health care plans. However, social media can be very powerful in other ways for the health care industry (Waters, 2009).
Social media is a fantastic content distribution platform, giving health care providers the ability to showcase their various coverage plans and prices. Social media can also be used to promote personal as well as ethical standards for health care providers, and help “humanize” the overall health care system. The trick is to make Facebook, Twitter and other social media outreach programs work for specific health care providers – instead of the other way around. Social media regulation for the field of health care is now a reality. Some may believe that this just another compliance hurdle. However, use of social media in education offers many opportunities (Terry, 2009).
According to a recent study which was conducted by Media bistro, it was founded that nearly 54 percent of patients are actually quite content with their health care providers seeking information or advice from online social media networks in order to better treat their medical situations.
If the situation of an online social network is of high quality, then many health care consumers have a tendency to trust the idea that crowd sourcing of information from other similar minded patients is dependable. This shows how health care consumers regard the internet and social media to be helpful for the exchange of relevant advice and information that is relevant to their health. Also, may health care professionals use social media as a means of professional networking; nearly 31 percent nationwide. This helps in putting a stronger focus on the many of the benefits and applications of social media platforms. One of these focuses of which being professional development for health care employees from social media networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn (Honigman, 2015).
Forty-one percent of health care consumers claim that social media would be a relevant factor in their choice of selecting a specific doctor, health care professional, hospital, or health care facility.
This finding strongly suggests that social media can be a way of helping to level both favorable and unfavorable word of mouth. This makes it an essential factor for an either individual or party in the health care industry to put emphasis on in order to draw in and retain clients and patients. Consumers of health care are using social media platforms as a way of discussing just about everything in their lives which includes their health and it is the responsibility of any health care institution to decide whether it is time to start making better use of social media. A health care provider’s reputation is probably the most important factor in attracting, as well as retaining their clients and patients (Honigman, 2015).
In a study which was conducted by Mashable, it was founded that parents are more likely to look online for medical information regarding their situation. Of these parents in the research study, 22 percent used Facebook while 20 percent used the video hosting social media platform You Tube. Of the non-parents, about 14 percent use Facebook while just 12 percent use YouTube to seek information on topics related to health care needs (Honigman, 2015).
As reported by Google Think Insights, it was founded that You Tube traffic towards hospital sites has risen by 119 percent in progressing years. This matters greatly to social media’s impact on the health care industry because video marketing online translates to internet traffic and this in turn leads much more conveniently than other kinds of online content because it is more effective in getting across the point, shares a humanizing element, and is able to point out the value of the health care facilities at a faster rate. Other hospital facilities should strongly consider creating video content about their services based on interviews, patient experiences, and anything else that would help build and market their credibility (Honigman, 2015).
Findings show that 30 percent of adult health care consumers are more than likely to share information regarding their own personal health on social media platforms with other patients. Forty-seven percent of them would share this same information across their social media platforms with doctors, 43 percent with medical facilities, 38 percent with any health insurance agency, as well as 32 percent with a pharmaceutical firm. Social media is progressively helping to better the ways that people perceive clarity and accuracy. This will in turn lead to a higher sequence of beneficial discussions and modernizations concerning the health care industry. More and more hospitals and medical facilities are beginning to participate in social media platforms. If any hospital is not making use social media, then they are failing to keep up with the pace of the learning curve in regards to the health care industry (Honigman, 2015).
One of the most popular social media platforms today is that of Twitter. Twitter has invested a great deal of interest in the advancement of health care achievements for the economy and the use of social media that may come along with it. Twitter can also leverage health care automation and campaign management platforms to deliver marketing campaigns through use of the “@” symbol. For example, health care providers can identify individuals whom are interested in purchasing health care plans through connections on Twitter, position personalized interest/hobby related offers based on Twitter likes that share a connection with interests in health care and directly initiate consumer dialogues using the Twitter platform (Terry, 2009).
Gamification is another key tactic to enrich the health care industry, as well as to design products and services whose properties evolve according to social sharing. And health care institutions are able to design experiences with network dynamics in mind. A significant part of the health care process now happens in review and comparison sites, communities or crowd sourced content services. In this environment, health care institutions can extend their sphere of influence through proactive analysis, outreach and relationship management activities among prospective clients and parties, and by enticing consumers to spread their influence through social media platforms, such as Twitter (Lober, 2011).
There are concerning theories that go along with how social media is being used in the health care industry. There are many educational theories and studies that surround the ideas and concepts of social media being integrated into the field of health care for providers of the service to use as a method of marketing, as well as for consumers to use as a method of informative research and exploration. While some theories may suggest that social media impairs the process of obtaining proper and credible health care, others may adversely suggest that the use of social media in the health care system actually is beneficial towards the overall industry. Most of the factors are dependent on each unique system of educational study regarding the use of social media in the health care industry (McGlynn, 2008).
Integrating Social Media & Healthcare
Various social media platforms geared towards health care are similar to public social media platforms, but they are specifically and solely intended for the consumers and providers of health care service plans. This is probably the most effective method of integrating social media into the health care system. Consider an online health care provider with a social network that is specific to a certain population based on certain diseases, age group, or military status. These prospective clients can now interact with the health care provider much more accessibly due to the tools and benefits that come with any adequate social network. Online interaction is more prevalent and consumers can better engage in discussion on health care topics just as adequately as a traditional in traditional meetings but with the speed and convenience of social media. Such versatility in the communications elements of the health care industry is only possible through the use of social media integrations (Courtney, 2013).
It is becoming more common that health care institutions are taking in interest in social networking as a way of enrolling clients into their plans. Many health care institutions, mostly public, are in the business of enrolling clients either to build the reputation of their institution, or to drive in profits from payments plans from the clients they bring on board. It is likely that such health care institutions would make use of social media platforms to advertise their service plans and try to recruit more clients. This is a different way of using social media platforms in the health care industry because it is not exactly being used in the process of interacting with already existing member clients themselves, but rather the processing of prospective clients to being enrolled into those coverage plans. Recruiting would easily be regarded as a big part of driving profits for health care providers. It is a given fact that the payments of all health care clients are used to cover the small percentage that actually uses their health care plan (Greaves, 2013).
It is well noted that the most popular social media platform, Facebook, has been serving as a beneficial tool towards the health care industry, as well as to the consumers themselves. Facebook has well over a billion users worldwide, which demonstrates its popularity among a vast array of life styles, including health care. It was noted by the authors that in a study conducted by the University of Georgetown, their results supported their conclusions in suggesting that Facebook had beneficially contributed to the health care system for consumers in enhancing their experience because of the nature and framework of the social media platform. This would not be surprising due to the simplicity that Facebook has to offer for the social networking experience. When this level of simplicity is incorporated into the health care industry, it can very well serve as a beneficial and effective tool for both providers and consumers to interact with (Honigman, 2015).
It is believed that social media is on its way to completely replacing the use of traditional e-mails in many sectors of communication including the health care industry. This is because social media platforms tend to be easier to use than e-mail. The conversations of messages exchanged between multiple users on a social media platform are usually saved, so that a user may go back and look at the historical messages. This would be useful for clients and providers to see where they left off on a conversation pertaining to a client’s specific health care situation (Sarasohn, 2008).
More than 40 percent of health care seeking consumers claim that information found through social media platforms impacts the ways that they cope with their personal health. Health care professionals carry the responsibility to establish an educational system to be disclosed throughout social media networks that will assist in accurately informing consumers about health care related topics and issues in order to make them aware of any misleading information. The perspectives of other people on social media are often credible but are not always the most accurate sources of information. This is especially seen when it comes to a topic as serious as that of health care (Courtney, 2013).
Age & Social Media
Research has suggested that people between the ages of 18 through 24 are more than twice as likely as the age group of those between 45 through 54 to engage in social media for health care concerns and discussions. These age groups of people between 18 and 24 year old are rather recent adopters of social media as well as modern means of communications which makes this important for health care providers to collaborate on these discussions at the moments which they are occurring. It is important that health care providers keep up with the social trends in communications and technology or else they risk losing out on the scrutiny of the contemporary generation (Courtney, 2013).
A study from Search Engine Watch suggested that 90 percent of survey respondents from the same age group of people between the ages of 18 through 24 claimed that they would maintain confidence in medical information that was relayed by other users on their social media networks. A contemporary generations’ social media network is a web of users that is well established online. This presents a great opportunity for health care professionals to connect with them in a more convenient and direct way (Sarasohn, 2008).
As reported by the Institute for Health, 31% of health care institutions maintain detailed social media guidelines and regulations in the form of writing. It is essential to have social media networking regulations in place for any health care institution or provider to make sure that everybody is on the same page. This means that the staff of a health care institution is fully mindful of the restrictions on their communications on social media, and that a systematic plan is well established for how social media should be utilized as a line of communication across your any health care institution (Honigman, 2015).
As social media continues to expand, it is likely that it will become a primary element of the health care system. Technology is constantly advancing and as it continues, the field of health care must be able to keep up with it so that the prospect of establishing one’s health care plan remains credible. The use of social media in health care is a great start in keeping up with this trend in society. One of these trends in society that relate to health care is the use of what are called mobile medical clinics. This trending concept in health care is an innovative way of providing health care to existing patients and social media plays a significant role in this (Honigman, 2015).
About 8.9% of the entire US population requires financial assistance in order to afford health insurance. The majority of these people in need of health care treatment do not have access to private insurance because they are unable to afford it. They do however; use alternative methods of obtaining health care and treatment through a variety of public services funded by the state or federal government. Although healthcare treatment is widely available, it can be costly to the point where most people simply cannot afford it based on their regular income. There are assistance programs of health care reform regarding medicines and treatment for those in need of it. Such assistance programs involve the Children’s Health Fund of New York City (CHF) being able to offer everybody medicines and treatment through certain qualifications catering to populations based on age, income, and infection status (Bacigalupe, 2011).
The CHF offers a variety of sources for people requiring insurance to receive health care and treatment. The level of accessibility is continuously being improved for those in need of it. While health care is generally expensive when being treated for just about anything, the CHF has made it significantly more accessible for people from ages 0-24. Relationships have been established with state and federal government entities, as well as with local programs to make this possible. As the CHF continues their efforts in being able to provide health care to children and poverty stricken families across the country, this concept explores in detail how these efforts are being executed, the effects they have on the stakeholders, and how the current situation can continue to innovate with the help of social media in communications (Bacigalupe, 2011).
What is unique about the concept of mobile medical clinics or (MMC) is the support for the revolutionary mobile health clinics and how it can be presented to consumers through the use of social media. The use of MMCs was first introduced when the CHF President MD Irwin Redlener was working for USA for Africa with singer Paul Simon. Somebody gave Dr. Redlener the idea of bringing health care assistance to those who need it by transporting doctors, nurses, and medical specialist in a van. In other words, the idea was to bring the doctors to the homes of patients. Then, the state of the art MMCs were introduced which now operate in several states across the United States (Bacigalupe, 2011).
Unfortunately, the MMCs have impaired communications and information systems limitations which would otherwise not exist in a traditional clinic. These limitations include network availability and reliability, data security, absence of on-site IT support, operating costs, and network throughput and latency. The limitations on information and network technology equipped by the MMCs might implicate that their communications are inadequate enough to act as efficient as a traditional clinic. It is important and highly recommended that efforts are continued to maintain the technological components of these MMCs to ensure that medical data and patient information is transmitted accurately to avoid medical mistakes. It is suggested that regular inspection of the network and information technology is taken on the MMCs. However, 4G data use is used effectively with social media in the MMCs as a means of communications (Bacigalupe, 2011).
Information technology is continuously innovating. If there are newer and better cost effective network based communications that can benefit the operations of the MMCs, such as the effective use of social media platforms, then they should be integrated and kept up to date. The federal government’s funds from the HITECH stimulus package and the Meaningful Use Standards are an effective way to fund such upgrades in network communications. The extended use of software adaptations will probably make it easier for CIO Weisman’s staff to operate. The only conditions where the MMCs are rendered obsolete are either all network communications cease to exist or everybody in the US is able to afford health care without assistance. Otherwise, the MMCs are likely to continue providing health care assistance to those who have trouble affording it and social media is an effective method of presenting this option to this specific population (Bacigalupe, 2011).
Ease of Access
A report from Demi and Cooper Advertising shows that about 19 percent of smart phone users have at least one type of health care application on downloaded onto their phone. Exercise or physical fitness, dieting, and weight watching applications are the most commonly used. This compels the need for any health care institution to possibly look into launching a kind of health related application that focuses on a specialty in health care. This finding does not necessarily suggest that every health care institution should create their own smart phone application; however they should have an emphasized focus for mobile users throughout their marketing strategy regardless of their size (Honigman, 2015).
The use of social media in health care through methods of mobile devices is becoming ever so popular due to the fact that mobile devices such as smart phones and computer tablets are booming in the market at an alarming rate. Many health care establishments of all sorts have already integrated such computer tablet devices into their system for users to keep track of their personal health with. The use of social media on mobile devices is profoundly making an adequate contribution to users who are trying to keep track of their diet and watch their weight. Similar mobile applications allow users to keep track of their fitness routine and goals as well as sharing them with their peers through social media platforms (Honigman & Lober 2011).
Another enterprise that is taking on the forms of social media to improve health care is that of personal training. Users are now able to carry with them a fitness plan and schedule that is given to them on a daily basis from a personal trainer through the use of social media applications. Many of these social media applications come in the form of mobile applications for smart phones which allows for users to carry their fitness plans and communicate with their personal trainers with questions or concerns regarding their fitness plan at the convenient access of their smart phones (Honigman, 2015).
In a report from Health Watch, the International Telecommunications Union assesses that worldwide use of smart phones or other mobile devices has reached 87 percent as of 2011. This enforces the idea that it is time for health care providers to start thinking mobile. With the worldwide mobile penetration hitting an all-time high, a contemporary time of connected internet devices is on the rise for many health care providers and it is time to start developing a strategy which integrates this into their system (Honigman, 2015).
It is interesting to find that the greater part of health care professionals and doctors chose a more accessible forum, as opposed to the discussions found in a health care related online social network. This is a unique finding because it plays into the same assertion that a particular level of clarity pushed by social media is grabbing a hold of the health care industry. There are many sectors of health care that are specific to certain populations, and reaching out to them using social media is a great tool. Social media is the most popular form of communication around the world. Although social media is self regulated, it is an authentic way to communicate using blogs, forums, and other forms or interactive dialogues. All of these forms of communication are valuable in sharing and promoting information. Many businesses use social media to promote and advertise their products daily, so why should the healthcare field be any different. Using social media in the healthcare field can allow clients to receive support, view feedback from other clients, and even support particular physicians. Many people believe that Facebook and Twitter are just for teens and young people, but social media is so much more than these two networking sites. For example:
“Almost all teenagers in America today have used social media. Nine out of 10 (90%) 13- to 17-year-olds have used some form of social media. Three out of four (75%) teenagers currently have a profile on a social networking site, and one in five (22%) has a current Twitter account (27% have ever used Twitter). Facebook utterly dominates social networking use among teens: 68% of all teens say Facebook is their main social networking site, compared to 6% for Twitter, 1% for Google Plus, and 1% for MySpace (25% don’t have a social networking site” (Turkle, 2011).
Certainly, a great deal of teens use social media as a form of entertainment. Nevertheless, most people who use the internet are members of a social media site regardless to their age. In other words, social media has a great impact on the way people communicate and the products and services they may or may not use. The social media experience is unique to each individual user.
The use of blogs is catching on in the healthcare field. People can get advice and opinions about various issues while being completely anonymous. This sharing and gathering of information allows clients to discuss topics that they may be uncomfortable discussing with their doctors. Likewise, the writers on the blogs feel comfortable with expressing their feelings about products or services they have used without the fear of retaliation. For example, a potential client can read reviews about the type of services a particular physician provides before deciding to become one of his patients. This gives the client an insight that they would never be able to get without the use of social media. These sites also give the physicians the opportunity to respond or refute comments being made.
Many organizations have found that social media is an effective way promote their products and or services. The best part about social media is that is a free service. Any organization that decides to use it will not incur any additional fees. For most companies and organizations, this is the most important factor in determining whether or not they will begin using the service. The common use of social media is to increase the public’s knowledge about something. In the healthcare field, social media will serve the same purpose. When an organization sets up a social media page, they are ensuring that people are aware of the services they provide. The day of calling an organization and asking what type of services they provide is long gone. People prefer browsing and reading the information themselves. By using the social media site, the person is able to see visual representations of the products and services. Being able to see the visual representations is very important to many people. It supports that old cliché that a picture is worth a thousand words. An even better option is when companies have videos that potential clients can watch.
Similar to the personal fitness mobile applications, there are applications that help patients keep track of their prescription intake. This is also true for people with diabetes. Certain health care applications allow for diabetes patients to keep track of their blood sugar intake, glucose levels, and insulin intake. These mobile health care applications make it easier and even more effective for patients of various diseases or injuries to keep better track of their treatment, status, and overall health. Also, the online support through these social media applications that focus on health care related concerns give people easier access to any questions or concerns they may seek from a health care professional. Before the formation of social media platforms, this was not possible, or was not as convenient as patients had to either keep track of their health without the access of adequate health care professionals or wait in line to see their doctor (Page, 2013).
Social media is an essential tool for health care professionals to communicate with all past, current as well as future consumers and health care patients, regardless of the various regulations to what is permitted and prohibited to be disclosed on behalf of any hospital or medical facility (Lober, 2011). Social media has impacted the entire society on a very grand scale; so grand to the point where it has turned into a platform where people share their interests as well as provide support to others in similar situations. This could be just one of the various elements carrying relevance as far as why many people trust the information that can be found on social media platforms related to health care concerns. The masses are progressively growing accepting social media as a normal part of their everyday lives. It is time that all relevant health care facilities incorporated this marketing base as sufficient part of their culture as well (Ferguson, 2013). Personal discussion is more prevalent than ever before thanks to the use of social media platforms. Infographics Archive found that nearly 28 percent of health related conversations on Twitter and Facebook are aiding health care related causes. This was followed up by 27 percent of people commenting on these discussions related to personal health experiences or status updates. These statistics support as well as point out two very usual uses of Twitter and Facebook related to personal health such as sharing common causes of any illnesses or engaging in discussion with other patients whom are in recovery (Honigman & Terry, 2009).
Social media enables health care providers not only to help establish their reputations, but also to extend their reputations to other prospective clients. Consider that a health care consumer has a favorable experience with their health care provider. That consumer may feel compelled to post a status update on their personal social media platform in regards to their favorable experience. When that consumer posts a status update mentioning the name of their health care institution and that it was a favorable experience, then this message will be sent across that consumer’s entire social network. A significant part of that social network may be compelled to research that health care provider and may end up doing business with them. Such word of mouth in the form of a social network status update helps to provide free marketing for that health care institution and many consumers may at the same time have similarly favorable experiences (Honigman, 2015).
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