Founder & CEO
June 19, 2021
Social listening is an extension of bedside manners in healthcare. A big part of healthcare is understanding the needs of people who are more often than not, not feeling good. In fact, it is so important it has a direct impact on how often doctors are sued for malpractice.
The overwhelming number of people who suffer an injury due to the negligence of a doctor never file a malpractice suit at all. Patients don't file lawsuits because they've been harmed by shoddy medical care. Patients file lawsuits because they've been harmed by shoddy medical care – and something else happens to them. What comes up again and again in malpractice cases is that patients say they were rushed or ignored or treated poorly.
It is clear that people want to be heard. They want to be listened to. So how can we turn social media and healthcare into a bedside manner exercise?
How social media is used in healthcare
Social media in healthcare can get a bit tricky due to the heavy regulation governing all aspects of the industry, including marketing.
Social media and telemedicine
The COVID-19 accelerated a lot of industries and their adoption of different technologies that were already available. Remote work, ecommerce, and telehealth are but a few of those impacted by the Pandemic.
For the longest time, patients (including myself) wondered why telehealth wasn't an option. Healthcare's strict regulation was to blame and we needed to change the rules that govern how the technology will function first. This would not have happened at this pace had it not been for the Pandemic.
As Healthcare Professionals continued to explore technology to connect with their patients, social media's gravitational pull continued to become impossible to ignore. Patients are online, discussing symptoms, medication and health insurance plans. More professionals started joining the online communities to counter misinformation, explain medical data, and engage with patients.
Social listening for healthcare
Social listening is the most effective source of information on any given subject and the sentiment around it. There are some key areas that can help inform marketing strategies.
Track general health-related searches
A little SEO research goes a long way, especially when considering that Google receives around 70k health-related searches every minute (or 1 billion a day, whichever is more impressive). It would be a terrible waste of resources to not pick up on what people are searching for on Google.
Monitor consumer online conversations
People will generally gravitate towards long-form online communication to discuss healthcare issues. This means that you will find them on health-related forums, Reddit, and Facebook groups.
With 138k communities and half a billion monthly active users (222 million of them in the US alone), Reddit is an incredibly useful resource for marketers in the healthcare industry.
Increasingly, however, Helathcare Professionals (HCP's) have also taken to Twitter to join conversations with their colleagues.
The idea of clinicians (chief medical officers as an example) as window dressing is a fundamental problem of US healthcare startups (and many large healthcare enterprises as well).— Sachin H. Jain, MD, MBA (@sacjai) June 16, 2021
Public discussions about healthcare issues among professionals are happening all the time. They serve as an-ongoing focus group on current topics.
Social listening for pharmaceuticals
- Track critical global KPI's
The nature of the pharmaceuticals and biotechnology industry necessitates laser-focused search queries that allow you to track KPI's on a global scale.
- Audience insights to inform promotional opportunities
Social listening provides pharmaceuticals with the information they need to know when, where, how they can execute a campaign.
- Build personas with different interests, demographics and affinities through social data
Social listening for health insurance
- Track brand mentions with sentiment analysis
Consumers love dunking on health insurance providers, so negative sentiments are typically higher than in other industries, but that is even more reason to keep a close eye on developing changes.
- Real-time alerts of online conversations to identify emerging trends and crisis
More people get their news from social media than news outlets. When a crisis breaks, you want to get in front of it as quickly as possible. In social media time, that is immediately.
- Identify influencers and the topics they lend their voices to
Influencers play a significant role in shaping public opinion. Monitoring influencers and the topics they discuss can serve as a great way to identify those for future partnerships and/or collaborations.
Social listening for healtcare facilities
- Boolean search in social listening to cover industry trends in real-time
- Influencer discovery for marketing and amplifying messaging
What are the advantages and disadvantages of social media in healthcare?
There are many advantages to using social media in healthcare:
- Raising awareness
- Combatting misinformation
- Managing crisis communication
The only disadvantage for social media in healthcare is if you are not actively taking advantage of it. It is ultimately going to give you what you put into it.
Can social media change health behavior
Social media provides us with large-scale data that we can learn an incredible amount of information from, such as:
- Sentiments on quitting smoking
- Views on post-acute myocardial infarction use of aspirin
- Opinions on hypertension medication and related side-effects
Indeed, a concern many have is how anonymous groups are able to disseminate misinformation that competes with traditionally trusted sources like the CDC. This has prompted some rather questionable practices of censorship from the likes of Youtube and Facebook.
The challenge then becomes, how much control do we want to give social media platforms over what is appropriate and what isn't? But there is no question about social media's impact on health behavior.
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