Health care isn't inherently social. It doesn't typically evoke positive emotions—you're calling the doctor because you're sick, not because it's #ThrowbackThursday. Other experiences, such as shopping, dining and travel, are inherently social. As a result, these industries have leveraged social media to improve the consumer experience.
According to the Journal of Internet Medical Research, 60 percent of adults surveyed used the Internet to find health information. Meanwhile, less than 15 percent actually engaged in social media to discuss health with their peers. This is largely because the health-care industry has failed to enable social opportunities for consumers, because it has not had an incentive to truly focus on the consumer. However, this will soon change with the Affordable Care Act's mandates on patient outcomes.
Currently, a staggering 75 percent of health-care costs are related to preventable illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and asthma. Financial incentives for providers to improve patient outcomes will create a greater focus on prevention and a shift toward patient responsibility. This means the industry should start to view the patients as "consumers" and find ways to improve their overall satisfaction and increase engagement. One clear way is going the same route that retail, dining, travel and other consumer industries have gone: social.
It's important to recognize that some of the recent patient engagement advancements in health care are steps in the right direction. Take employee wellness programs, for example. It's a great approach—creating a healthier working environment, offering incentives and using colleagues as inspiration. But adding a social layer to this—one that combines your coworker's voice with your spouse's, children's, best friend's and even a stranger who is experiencing the same challenges—can lead to long-term systemic changes.
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Some health issues are a result of individual behaviors, but using the people around us can help change those. As Nielson reported, 92 percent of the major influences in our lives come from those we know, and because so much of our interaction now occurs online, it's time to use social media in health in a bigger way.
At Audax Health, we believe that going social leads to better health and a better health system, and the industry is poised to be reinvented by social media. As this change gets underway, here are three lessons learned on what's proved successful in social media to increase engagement and improve consumer outcomes:
People need to be able to visualize their health.
This trend is evident with the popularity of platforms like Instagram and Pinterest: We like seeing information through graphics. These social sites have given us a more effective way of browsing through content with a constant stream of free-flowing material at the tips of our fingers. We find ourselves scrolling through endless pages of "stackable" content, being drawn to the visuals. There is infinite data in health care to draw from to develop these engaging graphics for users— presenting it in a way that's not only easy to consume but to understand. Technical health jargon makes it difficult for consumers to connect with their health. There's great information on medical charts, but consumers can't read them, so why not create a visual health report? A 20-page whitepaper about hypertension is useless, but a personalized infographic that's intuitive and simple can help them visualize a story about their individual health.