There is no question about it – social media is changing the way we think, feel and act. And it’s bringing about changes we couldn’t possibly have predicted. Even just a few years ago, the idea of following your doctor on Facebook would be bizarre.
But one look at your Facebook feed today, and it’s clear that times have changed. And there is no area this transformation is more obvious than in healthcare. But how exactly is social media embracing digital healthcare, and what does that mean for us as a society?
Creating Advocates For Your Cause, And Your Brand
Social media has the unique power to connect and unite people from all over the world, bringing people together based on common interests. This has caused a significant shift in two key areas:
- Social media is now used as a platform to connect patients and form online support groups
- Healthcare brands are using social advocacy and patient case studies to promote their work.
All you have to do is search for an illness on Facebook, and you will see dozens of support groups and pages dedicated to spreading information, generating awareness and giving support to sufferers of that particular illness. If you suffer from something yourself, you may even be part of one.
Community pages are also becoming a place where people go to ask simple healthcare questions and get advice and information, before going to a doctor. This has had a huge impact on the number of doctor visits for simple solve-at-home problems, as well as giving patients a support network they may have never had before.
But healthcare brands can use this too. We are in an age of marketing honesty, and people respond to individual stories. Patients advocating for treatment, awareness and knowledge through healthcare brands can help people feel more comfortable, spread awareness of epidemics or illnesses, and reduce infection rates.
It also allows brands to personalise and tailor their messaging, encouraging better response rates. In that sense, brand advocates for healthcare brands are an incredibly powerful tool.
Support Outside Hospital Walls
In the past, medical care has largely been limited to inside the hospital walls. With today’s pressures on the NHS, this often means that some patients don’t get the help they need to understand their care, or they don’t feel like they can ask for it.
This is where social media can step in and help bridge the gap. Not only do social platforms become a place where people can ask for advice, but it becomes a resource that can save lives.
Look at Facebook as an example. Every day, 2.23 billion people engage with Facebook, divulging little pieces of information as they interact with content and talk with other users. By doing this, we paint a complete picture of our lives that can be used to create a profile of ‘normal’ activity.
Facebook has recently started using AI to assess this information and use it to identify suicide threats or high-risk posts. The programme can proactively detect anomalies in behaviour, use pattern recognition to find posts that match a pattern for suicide risk, and take action if needed. For example, if it sees a high volume of comments like ‘are you ok?’ and ‘can I help?’, it will trigger a wellness check if needed.
In fact, in just one month, Facebook worked with first responders to carry out over 100 wellness checks based on this AI detection network, and has become a useful tool for preventing suicide It’s this kind of integration between social media and digital healthcare that could save countless lives, and offer support where and when it is needed.
Gamification Of At Home Healthcare
Many studies show the benefits of home-based healthcare. If patients can administer medications and care for themselves at home, it will significantly reduce the strain on our overburdened healthcare system, while improving the quality of life of patients as well.
Social media has unlocked a whole host of new ways of encouraging at home healthcare – and one of those is gamification.
In general, there are three ways healthcare businesses can gamify self-management, medication adherence, weight loss and countless other health and wellness exercises:
- Using progress bars to show progression and celebrate achievements
- Sharing progress and results with friends and other users. The C25K (couch to 5K) app is a great example of this, as it lets users share their routes and times on social media
- Giving badges, medals or starts for accomplishments – for weight loss, skills learnt or progress made.
Some brands have already started mixing VR and AR with this gamification element to create interactive at-home healthcare that is fun, as well as beneficial. For example, gamified exercises for older people of people with movement impairments have already been invented, using real-time biofeedback from motion capture sensors and gesture control technology to measure progress.
This kind of gamification and VR/AR advancement has proven to significantly improve health literacy, inspire more people and educate the public, so we expect to see a lot more content using these technologies in the future. We talk a bit more about gamification and health in another blog, which you can read here.
The Constraints Of Social In Healthcare
Of course, as a healthcare brand, it can be difficult to understand what you can and can’t do. Because it’s such a sensitive industry, the regulations around what you can do on social media are very restrictive.
If you want to push content in any way, then you need strict PV rules in place, or risk having your license taken away. So when digital healthcare brands are interacting with social media, they need to be aware of these restrictions and work within them. But it’s important to see the advantages of this and specifically the opportunity to get truthful feedback from your consumers, potentially saving you millions in improving your product and how it is marketed.
At Orbital Media, we’ve developed a unique, pioneering digital pharmacovigilance strategy, which is designed to monitor, log and report across the full spectrum of digital and social media channels for healthcare brands. This strategy means your brand would be completely compliant with the regulations, and able to take on the world of marketing with confidence. Your PV rules (which we can help you create) address pretty much every response your brand can get on social media, from adverse events (like getting spots from a cream etc.) to complaints, which trigger the correct route to divert it back to a medical officer or beyond.
If you would like to find out more about how you can harness the power of social media and marketing in digital healthcare, we would love to help. Just get in touch with the team at Orbital Media today, and book your free consultation.