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Healthcare and Social Media: Finally, Everyone Can Play Nice

1914931 Healthcare and Social Media: Finally, Everyone Can Play NiceThis post is part of a week-long series on the current practices and potential applications of social media in various industries.

By Kimberly Reyes (@CommDuCoeur)

Talking about social media and healthcare is a pretty big pill to swallow (pun intended).  A lot of us take our health seriously…and social networking sites not-so-seriously.  But the reality is that social networking has

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This post is part of a week-long series on the current practices and potential applications of social media in various industries.

By Kimberly Reyes (@CommDuCoeur)

Talking about social media and healthcare is a pretty big pill to swallow (pun intended).  A lot of us take our health seriously…and social networking sites not-so-seriously.  But the reality is that social networking has had a major impact in reshaping the healthcare landscape, from empowering patients, to informing doctors, to compelling the FDA to completely re-evaluate its rules and guidelines for Pharma advertising.

Meet ePatient Dave.  Dave was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer, and with a strong network of family, friends, and medical staff, he now lives cancer-free as one of the leading voices of the ePatient movement.  Dave has a blog.  He has over 3,200 followers on Twitter.  Dave also has a mission: to encourage other patients to learn about their conditions and their treatment options, and work with their doctors towards achieving a full and healthy life.  You see, the “e” in ePatient doesn’t just stand for “electronic;” it stands for “empowered,” “educated,” and “engaged.”  And these engaged patients are guiding a new, social movement in healthcare – talk about reform!

We understand that the idea of “empowered patients” makes a few physicians uneasy, which is why it’s more important than ever for the healthcare community to embrace social media.  The conversations between doctor and patient are no longer one-way.  Patients have formed communities where they not only lend each other emotional support, but they exchange information and advice.  The need for a professional voice among them is strong.

And it doesn’t stop there – engagement in social media may even improve our quality of care.  The website HealthGrades provides in-depth profiles and ratings of 5,000 hospitals, 6,000 nursing homes, and 650,000 physicians across the country.  Doctors use Sermo to ask each other questions, share answers, and keep up-to-date on the latest news and trends in medicine.  Finally, MedHelp connects patients with leading medical experts, as well as provides tools for healthier living.

To assist the healthcare community in understanding the impact of social media, Zemoga teamed up with Palio in a joint venture called Pixels & Pills, and created a little something we call The Health Tweeder.  We first broke the news to you in a February 2nd blog post and on the Pixels & Pills blog, and we’re proud to say that our Tweeder has gotten quite a bit of attention since then.  Wanna know what all the buzz is about?

The Health Tweeder, simply put, is a data visualization tool comprised of colored petri dishes, each representing a specific disease or condition.  The Heath Tweeder collects real-time data from the ever-active Twitterverse and sorts through it for relevant information using search terms, hashtags, or handles of distinguished members of the healthcare community.  The petri dishes grow and shrink based on the dialogue being generated about each health topic, and users can click on each dish to watch the conversation in real time.

We created the Health Tweeder to demonstrate a meaningful application of social media to our healthcare clients, and we’re happy that it opened up the conversation for the healthcare industry to really consider the possibilities.

Pharma especially comes under fire for spending too much money on advertising and not enough on developing or enhancing the medicines that make our lives better, or even save them.  Social media affords Pharma the opportunity to reach their audiences in a way that is both more engaging than traditional advertising and more cost-efficient.  And believe me–I know this sounds counter-intuitive–but social media might even help Pharma better obey FDA rules and regulations, if done properly.  It offers another platform to display drug safety text and further educate the consumer on the warnings and risks associated with taking the drug.  But perhaps the most useful implication of Pharma’s involvement with social media is the ability to assist patients in complying with their medication plans, which results in a mutually beneficial relationship among patient, physician and Pharma.

When it comes to healthcare and social media, this is just the tip of the iceberg.  What other opportunities do you see for healthcare to engage in social media?

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