Health Plan's Secret Sauce is Social Media

Jacqueline Fellows, April 17, 2013

Every industry, including healthcare, has been trying to figure out a way to get the most out of social media in general, and Facebook, specifically. The real winners are, of course, consumers because myriad online ads, coupon sites, and Facebook posts drive prices lower.

Hospitals and health systems trying to compete in this space can't win a price war, but they may win on patient engagement. Unfortunately, the results are soft, at best, as the strategy generally revolves around hoping someone comments on a Facebook post about a wellness goal, such as losing weight, managing stress, or quitting a tobacco habit.

Magellan Health Services, a specialty managed healthcare provider, seems to have hit upon an effective way to not only engage patients, but also change the behavior that is contributing to patients' health problems. And they're doing it with social media.

In 2012, Magellan launched a pilot project with a "large health plan in the Northeast" aimed at reducing the readmission rates of members who had been admitted to a hospital for substance abuse. In addition to a phone call after being discharged from the hospital, health plan members were invited to join a social media site that looks, feels, and functions like Facebook, but is tailored specifically for them.

See Also: Engaged Patients Cost Less

"The people we're engaging on this [website] we probably never would've gotten on the telephone," says Laurie Gondek, senior vice president of product innovation at Magellan. "You have people who want to engage in many different ways. Some, with their providers… and then there are those who prefer to start out online."

Jacqueline Fellows

Jacqueline Fellows is a contributing writer at HealthLeaders Media.

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