Health Care Trends With a Social Media Twist
The PR’s role in freeing the flow of information from manufacturers and care givers to patients and consumers within the healthcare arena is nothing if not a challenge.
Online communication channels have changed the way society manages health. We look up symptoms on Wikipedia and NHS Choices, blog about illnesses, discuss health issues, conditions and side-effects on websites, Facebook and Twitter: and in many cases except guidance via the same means.
The explosion of user-generated content has potentially created a plethora of safety information (including information on off-label use, misuse and normal clinical practice prescription habits) that due to lack of a robust legislative framework is currently not being sufficiently accessed, analysed or even considered by the relevant stakeholders involved in public health.
So how do we manage this abundance of information and ultimately high level of trust responsibly?Ultimately, transparency is the critical ingredient: making sure that the public understands the source and reliability of information is a responsibility not a chore.
As social media continues to evolve at such a pace, those healthcare organisations that now embrace social media from a transparent and responsible stand point can establish a considerable gap with regards to knowledge and understanding of social media communications and marketing. Delaying robust entry into the world of social media, as more and more people turn to it as their first and primary portal for healthcare information, isn’t only a bad business decision – but is now ultimately irresponsible.
To that affect: I’m inclined to believe that a well thought-through communications programme, can help unlock the potential of any situation – bias?
Looking ahead, Pharmacovigilance processes and their regulations need to be innovative to meet the challenge of utilising the resource, both in terms of communicating responsibly, but also capturing relevant safety data from the rapidly expanding pool of information generated from the internet, and ensure the most is made of the resources now at our disposal to protect public health.
Unique considerations for healthcare content:
• Doctors are recognised experts, people have a natural tendency to believe whatever doctors tells them. That belief extends to healthcare content on the Internet especially at sites of trusted professionals or organisations. Therefore, it is critical that healthcare content, especially when it deals with diseases or medical conditions, be accurate and have transparent input and/or review by appropriate experts.
• People often seek healthcare content when under the stress of discovering that they or a loved one are suffering from a particular condition, it is important to treat healthcare and medical topics sensitively and in a balanced manor.
• The availability of medical information online is rarely something that will cause a customer to choose a particular company or healthcare provider. However, the lack of health and medical information may influence an existing customer’s decision to change affiliations.