Social media is ubiquitous and companies have been taking advantage of this. From retail brands to media organisations, businesses large and small have been utilising social media platforms to push their products.
There is one industry, according to David Francis at RBC Capital Markets, that is missing the opportunities that social media provides: healthcare.
“One of the new variables with which healthcare stakeholders are struggling is marketing to and communicating with their consumers using media, technologies and techniques that are largely foreign to their way of doing business,” wrote Francis in a note to clients Thursday.
Francis said that this opportunity could be snatched up by other actors, and healthcare firms are open to serious losses.
“Choosing not to engage the healthcare consumer where they regularly interact electronically is a tacit surrender to more forward thinking stakeholders,” wrote Francis.
The reason these companies need to use social media, said Francis, is that consumers have more power in healthcare decisions due to high deductible plans.
Since the consumer now has more power, healthcare providers have to change the way they do business to meet the lifestyle of the consumer better.
Part of this is getting news and information to patients and consumers. Francis, using a survey of 1,500 people through the Health Management Academy, found that half of consumers made purchasing decisions based in part on information they received on social media.
Only 35%, however, had used social media for health and wellness purposes. “It is clear that there is meaningful additional use of social media properties that can be driven in the health care arena if Consumer Health IT providers can develop the proper, attractive engagement tools to bring in health care Consumers to their properties,” wrote Francis.
Of those that did use social media for health purposes, many used it to learn about a health condition or connect with a community to learn more about healthcare.
Francis said that doctor’s offices, hospitals, pharmacies, and other providers can use the “broadcast” nature of the platforms to disseminate important information, monitor patient sentiment and advertise services.
Francis also found that while many people do not know about their providers online or social media presence, when they do, they utilise it.
“The data also shows the latent demand of Consumers in connecting with their Providers,” wrote Francis. “Though fewer than 50% of Providers are known by their Consumers to have a secure website available, over 75% of Consumers utilise their physician’s website while 2-in-3 use their hospital’s site.”
The issue these providers have to contend with, said Francis, is that they must convince consumers that the interactions are secure and helpful. Once that happens, he thinks there is a huge latent market waiting to be tapped, or squandered.