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Is Social Media an Effective Healthcare Marketing Tool?

Anna Webster, for HealthLeaders Media, May 11, 2011

Social media is a marketer's campaign fallback. When in doubt, tweet it! Post it! Social media seems like an obvious marketing platform, but it may not be as effective as you  think in the healthcare sector.

Only 4% of healthcare industry leaders reported social media as "very effective" for helping marketing efforts, according to HealthLeaders Industry Survey 2011.The majority of respondents (53%) answered that they were "neutral" on social media's effectiveness.

Maybe it's information overload. Maybe it's a form of A.D.D. Millennials are showing little interest in what marketers have to say via social media. According to a Capstrat poll, more than five of every six respondents said they would not use social media for medical communication if their doctors offered it.

"It appears consumers are willing to move administrative experiences such as bill payment and records access online, but when it comes to conferring with their healthcare providers, people still prefer more traditional communications," said Capstrat President,  Karen Albritton in a media statement.

Many hospitals and healthcare organizations are still figuring out the best ways to use social media to their advantage. Thus far, the only social media guidelines for physicians are from the American Medical Association and were released in November 2010. Here are the highlights which include monitoring:

  • Privacy settings to safeguard personal information
  • Internet presence to ensure that the personal and professional information personal sites and content posted about them by others, is accurate and appropriate.
  • Appropriate boundaries of the patient-physician relationship when interacting with patients online to ensure patient privacy and confidentiality are maintained.
  • Separation of personal and professional content online.
  • Online actions---Recognize that and content posted can negatively affect their reputations among patients and colleagues, and may even have consequences for their medical careers.

The guidelines are basic, to say the least. In my research, I've come across two extreme cases of social media use: One with profoundly positive consequences…and one with profoundly negative consequences.

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8 comments on "Is Social Media an Effective Healthcare Marketing Tool?"


Isabel McCan (6/27/2012 at 4:10 PM)
Although there is no cut and dry way to gauge the amount of revenue that a social media marketing campaign can bring to a health or wellness company, social media is still an undoubtedly useful tool for health professionals. Not only can health practices garner new potential customers by spreading word about their business across the many platforms of the social media circuit, they can also keep these new fans or followers up-to-date about any events, news, or anything interesting and relevant to their business. By using well thought-out social media tactics like these, it is much easier to cultivate customer loyalty. Also, health companies can not only use social media to reach out to existing and potential patients, but they can also find other like-minded professionals with whom they can connect and collaborate with. So despite the ethical lines that health practices must be careful not to cross while creating content online, there are still many ways that social media can prove fruitful for a health practice. Here is an article we posted on our site that give six (of the many) reasons why health practices should engage in social media: http://www.feelgoodnow.com/feelgoodsocial/bid/154833/6-Reasons-Why-Health-Practices-Should-Be-On-Social-Sites

Erick Kinuthia (3/21/2012 at 1:34 AM)
In this current world and economy if a doctor is not in the social media bandwagon is missing a lot on potential patients. Erick Kinuthia Team MDwebpro

Brandon (10/29/2011 at 3:02 PM)
Emily, I am pretty sure that the second paragraph states the stance the article takes on the effectiveness of advertising through social media.