Consumer Activity on Social Media Sites Dwarfs that of Healthcare Companies, Finds New PwC Study on Social Media in Healthcare
New York, April 17, 2012 – Social media is changing the nature of healthcare interaction, and health organizations that ignore this virtual environment may be missing opportunities to engage consumers, according to a new report by the Health Research Institute (HRI) at PwC US entitled, “Social media likes healthcare: From marketing to social business.”
The report found that social media activity by hospitals, health insurers and pharmaceutical companies is miniscule compared to the activity on community sites. While eight in 10 healthcare companies (as tracked by HRI during a sample one-week period) had a presence on various social media sites, community sites had 24 times more social media activity than corporate sites. The finding holds significant implications for businesses looking to capitalize on social media opportunities.
Liking, following, linking, tagging, stumbling: social media is changing the nature of health-related interactions.
“The power of social media for health organizations is in listening and engaging with consumers on their terms. Social media has created a new customer service access point where consumers expect an immediate response,” said Kelly Barnes, US Health Industries leader, PwC. “Health organizations have an opportunity to use social media as a way to better listen, participate in discussions and engage with consumers in ways that extend their interaction beyond a clinical encounter. Savvy adopters are viewing social media as a business strategy, not just a marketing tool.”
PwC’s report includes findings from a recent HRI social media survey of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers and 124 members of the eHealth Initiative (eHI), a national association of industry organizations focusing on health information and technology. HRI also interviewed more than 30 industry executives and tracked the social media activity of a number of hospitals, insurers, drug manufacturers, and online patient communities to create a Week-in-the-life of Social Health snapshot.
The consumer survey found:
One-third of consumers now use social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and online forums for health-related matters, including seeking medical information, tracking and sharing symptoms, and broadcasting how they feel about doctors, drugs, treatments, medical devices and health plans.
Four in 10 consumers say they have used social media to find health-related consumer reviews (e.g. of treatments or physicians); one in three have sought information related to other patients’ experiences with their disease; one in four have “posted” about their health experience; and one in five have joined a health forum or community.
When asked how information found through social media would affect their health decisions, 45 percent of consumers said it would affect their decision to get a second opinion; 41 percent said it would affect their choice of a specific doctor, hospital or medical facility; 34 percent said it would affect their decision about taking a certain medication; and 32 percent said it would affect their choice of a health insurance plan.
While 72 percent of consumers said they would appreciate assistance in scheduling doctor appointments through social media channels, nearly half said they would expect a response within a few hours.
As is the case more broadly, young adults are leading the social media healthcare charge. More than 80 percent of individuals between the ages of 18 and 24 said they were likely to share health information through social media channels and nearly 90 percent said they would trust information they found there. By comparison, less than half (45 percent) of individuals between the ages of 45 and 64 said they were likely to share health information via social media.
Evolution from Social Media to Social Business Strategy
While some health businesses have started listening and participating in the social media space, they have not fully connected it to business strategy. The HRI report found that organizations that are strategic about their use of social sites are beginning to differentiate between social media and social business. Social media is the external-facing component that gives and receives customer input. Social business is where core internal operations, such as customer service, data analytics and product development could use social data. Additionally, patient-reported data on social networks could offer new insights on behavior and lifestyle to help inform care plans and improve the quality of life for patients with chronic conditions.
HRI’s survey of eHealth initiative members found:
Eighty-two percent said their organization’s social media efforts are managed by marketing/communications. Few organizations said their IT departments and digital teams owned social media strategies.
One-half said they are concerned about how to integrate social media data into business strategy and processes.
PwC says that hospitals, insurers and pharmaceutical manufacturers can benefit from the interactive nature of social media. Insights from social media offer instant feedback on products or services along with new ideas for innovation that could lead to higher-quality care, more loyal customers, efficiency and even revenue growth.
“Social media is another source of business intelligence that provides information at the aggregate level, not only about what consumers ‘like,’ but what they need, how they behave and when their experiences demand an immediate response,” said Daniel Garrett, US Health Information Technology leader, PwC. “Health organizations can engage IT to integrate social data intelligence with existing systems and processes, yet most are still struggling with how to manage the data from their own clinical systems.”
The HRI report Social media likes healthcare: From marketing to social business provides research on new and emerging relationships between consumers and the biggest health companies that serve them. It examines how individuals use the social channel; how some leading healthcare firms are responding, and outlines strategies for taking advantage of this new view into the 21st century patient. A copy of the full report is available at www.pwc.com/us/healthsocialmedia.
About the Research
PwC’s Health Research Institute commissioned a nationwide online survey of 1,060 U.S. adults in February 2011 and surveyed 124 health industry executives among the membership of the eHealth Initiative (eHI), a national association of industry organizations focusing on health information and technology. In addition, HRI conducted more than 30 in-depth interviews with executives and thought leaders representing pharmaceutical and biotech companies, insurers, providers, patient advocacy/community organizations, community health companies, and independent consultants and lawyers. HRI also tracked the social media activity of a number of insurers, providers, drug manufacturers and online patient communities to create a “Week in the life of social health” snapshot of activity.
About PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI)
PwC’s Health Research Institute provides new intelligence, perspectives, and analysis on trends affecting health-related industries. The Health Research Institute helps executive decision makers navigate change through primary research and collaborative exchange. Our views are shaped by a network of professionals with executive and day-to-day experience in the health industry. HRI research is not sponsored by businesses, government, or other institutions.
About PwC’s Health Industries Group
PwC’s Health Industries Group (www.pwc.com/us/healthindustries) is a leading advisor to public and private organizations across the health industries, including healthcare providers, pharmaceuticals, health and life sciences, payers, employers, academic institutions and non-health organizations with significant presence in the health market. Follow PwC Health Industries at http://twitter.com/PwCHealth.
About the PwC Network
PwC firms help organizations and individuals create the value they’re looking for. We’re a network of firms in 158 countries with close to 169,000 people who are committed to delivering quality in assurance, tax and advisory services. Tell us what matters to you and find out more by visiting us at www.pwc.com.
Editor’s note: I was a bit disappointed that the PwC report didn’t discuss what types of patient information is shared on what types of online forums. Organizations often use a Facebook as a public forum to share information with patients, but few patients share their personal information there due to privacy concerns.
As noted in Patients Find and Help Each other in Social Media, I’m trying to better understand how patients find and help each other online in social media. I notice more patients joining support group forums than posting information in more open discussions where anyone can participate and see what they post. Unfortunately, most of these forums focus on a single medical condition, and I’ve not yet discovered ones that focus effectively on the elderly, with their combination of medical conditions and physical limitations.