Social Media Week: Navigating social media and healthcare

Last night I attended a Social Media Week NY event at the NYU Stern School of Business called "Navigating Social Media Technology in Healthcare."

Last night I attended a Social Media Week NY event at the NYU Stern School of Business called "Navigating Social Media Technology in Healthcare." Moderated by Augustine Fou, the group chief digital officer of Healthcare Consultancy Group, the panel included Dr. Jay Parkinson, partner of design company The Future Well; DJ Edgerton, CEO of interactive agency Zemoga; Ned Russell, MD of Saatchi Wellness; and Dr. Oliver Kharraz, COO and cofounder of online patient-doctor site ZocDoc.

The overall consensus of the panel was that healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry are starting to dabble in social media and digital technology, but roadblocks -- and opportunities -- remain. (For a more robust look at how those in the pharma are embracing social media, you can read PRWeek's February feature.)

"It's very exciting, at the beginning," said Kharraz. "We have to build on what's already out there and figure out how to use social media to make our lives better."

Fou pointed out that as the younger generation, which uses social media to get reviews of everything from music to restaurants, also want to use social media to learn more about certain drugs or doctors.

"These are habits that once acquired, are irreversible," he said, noting that that generation of doctors will also be more online-focused.

Saatchi Wellness' Russell said there is a lot of uncertainty in healthcare in general, which means those in the industry are even more uncertain of how to proceed with social media. Healthcare and pharmaceutical companies, he said, need to listen more.

"They have to become more open marketers," he said. He also added that social media in the healthcare space is not about building brands, but providing value to consumers. "In our world, it's going to be more about the [health] condition and how people get information about that condition."

Edgerton said one reason companies are unwilling to participate in social media outreach, or offer ways for consumers to comment online about their products, is the fact that brands must report adverse events, and that the burden is on them.

But, he adds, almost 9 out of 10 doctors refer to the Internet as a critical component in their practice.

"It's simply a monetary issue. If you pay doctors to communicate, they will communicate," Parkinson said. If they see the value of using social media to save them time and money, they will use it. Additionally, he added, "I think regulation needs to be relaxed so doctors can experiment."

Parkinson also founded Hello Health, which connects doctors and patients online, to schedule appointments and more. He predicts that soon, 20% of doctors and 20% of patients will be engaged in an e-patient relationship.

You can see the Twitter conversation about the event by following #smwhealthcare.

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