Report: U.S. health care orgs lag on social media

Go beyond marketing, report suggests

Topics: Consumer Marketing, Marketing, Online Strategy, Communications and Public Relations, Care Transformation, Performance Improvement

April 13, 2012

U.S. health care organizations should take lessons from other countries and expand their use of social media tools beyond marketing purposes, according to a report from technology consultancy firm CSC.

The report found that the health care industry is less proactive than other industries in embracing social media. Within the health care industry, hospitals are the furthest from using social media to engage with consumers, the report found.

The report also classified countries by how active their hospitals are in social media adoption. It noted that:

  • Countries with a high level of hospital social media adoption are the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom
  • Countries with a mid-range level of hospital social media adoption are Austria and the United States; and
  • Countries with a low level of hospital social media adoption are Australia, Germany, and Switzerland.

According to the report, physicians in other countries often use social media to interact with their colleagues and find information about medical research. The report noted that U.S. health care providers are more likely to use social media for marketing purposes than for interactions with patients.

Factors hindering social media use among U.S. providers
Caitlin Lorinez—a CSC research analyst and co-author of the report—says many U.S. health care providers are hesitant to engage with patients through social media channels because they worry that health-related information they provide could be "taken out of context and interpreted as medical advice."

She adds that physicians who are concerned about increasing their malpractice liability tend to avoid sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Possible applications of social media in health care
The report noted that despite health care providers' concerns, social media can help improve patient care, especially for activities relating to:

  • Care coordination;
  • Care management;
  • Patient monitoring;
  • Population health; and
  • Wellness (Terry, InformationWeek, 4/10).

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