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The Importance Of Social Media In The Medical Field

Recently,  I had the pleasure of being surrounded by brilliant health care thought leaders.  First, I delivered a social media presentation at the Eyeforpharma conference.  Secondly, I sat in the audience at the Social Communications and Health Care 2011 conference to listen to others present on social media, and participate in a round-table discussion on social media.

It’s clear from the personal discussion that followed with folks from the pharma industry, medical device companies, and hospitals, that they understand the need for social media (or social networking), but they are cautious to dive in.

A few concerns I’ve heard:  “social media can be paralyzing,” “senior leadership in the pharma industry is looking for the FDA to make decisions because it’s such a highly regulated industry,” and “it’s still so new, what’s the ROI?”  Concerns are real; however there will always be concerns and questions.  Sometimes, the best approach is to just dive right in.

The brilliant reason to dive deep into the social media health space is because it fosters engagement.

[Image:  iStockPhoto]

Define your social media strategy.

Is it to collaborate with colleagues and other thought leaders?  Is it to promote a brand or product?  Is it to monitor consumer behavior?  Is it to help educate the public with valuable and trustworthy health information?

Regardless of the reason, always remember to provide valuable, relevant and trustworthy information.  Think about who’s receiving the information.  How will it benefit them?  How will it help impact their lives?  How will they utilize the information into forming actionable steps to help improve their health?  Social media is about “them,” not you.  It’s about being a leader in your field and offering ideas and information to help educate consumers.  It’s about engaging, collaborating and communicating information with honesty and complete transparency.

Use your unique voice, stay on message, always remember to engage with empathy and heart, and always be respectful.  Be mindful of what you tweet and post.

HIPAA and patient privacy considerations are paramount.  Be aware that tweets are archived in the Library of Congress.  Think before you tweet.

Learn what other industries have done to implement social media.

Zappos has been successful because of the culture, according to a blog on Social Turbine.

Sure, Zappos is about shoes and not about big pharma, medical device companies or hospitals, however it’s a company that can help offer insight into establishing useful social media strategies.

“Unlike their competitors, Zappos treats social media as a tactic, not a strategy. While some firms use social media to sell a product/service (and then ditch it when ROI gets low)—Zappos doesn’t believe in social media metrics. According to Hsieh, “The various tools of digital communication—blogs, microblogs and streaming video—have a different purpose […] these tools give the public “glimpses into how we act.”” [Source: Social Turbine]

Social media allows doctors, nurses, other health professionals and health care companies to deeply connect and engage with the community and their colleagues.

Social media is fast and fierce. Social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and blogs are a powerful and phenomenal platform that offers value and real-time communication.

Social networking sites help educate patients and consumers, raise awareness of health issues and it offers a forum to collaborate and connect, and it’s easy.  People are signing in on-the-go from the smart phone or tablets—communication is continuous and in real-time.

According to the World Health Organization, “Mobile phones are now the most widely used communication technology in the world.”

Excellent social media resources to help you engage

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) The Health Communicator’s Social Media Toolkit

Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media

Cleveland Clinic Social Media Policy

Kaiser Permanente Social Media Policy

Social Media Governance –

Intel Social Media Guidelines

IBM Social Computing Guidelines

Web 2 0 Governance Policies and Best Practices

AMA Policy: Professionalism in the Use of Social Media

New AMA Policy Helps Guide Physicians’ Use of Social Media

David Harlow, Esq. – HealthBlawg

Hospital Social Network List – Ed Bennett

Healthin30/Social Media | Social Networking


Social Turbine

Social Media Today

Social Media Examiner

Lee Aase – Social Media University

Bottom line

There’s no magic bullet for overnight social media success.  It’s an investment in time.  It’s about knowing that you can sincerely make a difference and help improve the lives of consumers as well as share valuable information with your colleagues.  Social media takes patience and time.  Like all relationships, it takes time to build and cultivate trust.  Be mindful of what you post, be respectful, learn from others outside the industry, always be transparent, be genuinely concerned and empathetic and most of all embrace this new and exciting platform.  Dive in and dive deep and embrace the relationships you make along the way.

Your turn

We would love to hear your insightful thoughts and comments.  What’s your social media strategy?  What have you gained from engaging in social media?

As always, thank you for your valuable time.

*This blog post was originally published at Health in 30*

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