Guest Column | November 15, 2018

Today's Healthcare Professionals Are Leveraging Social Media Conversations For Collaboration, Global Reach, And Real-Time Learning

By Erin Fitzgerald, SERMO

Social Media Health Policy

In today’s connected world, healthcare professionals (HCPs) are taking advantage of new ways to collaborate and social media is leading the charge. Collaboration has become a key factor for doctors using social media, allowing them to anonymously share experiences, insights and challenges. This type of collaboration simply wasn’t possible before the use of social media.

Social media platforms continue to grow, becoming a main channel for communication and collaboration in just about every industry. While patients increasingly use social media for on-demand healthcare advice and support, physicians see social media as an avenue for delivering better care, tapping into the insights of colleagues and staying current on healthcare industry developments. In fact, 88 percent of physicians use social media and the internet to research pharmaceutical, biotech and medical devices. By arming physicians with technology that allows them to discuss treatments with colleagues, social media is changing the game of the doctor-doctor-patient relationship and revolutionizing better, faster clinical care for patients.

Healthcare is an industry that’s often viewed as antiquated. As a result, the opportunity for the digital transformation of the healthcare industry is greater than any other industry. Now more than ever before, physicians are relying on social media to enable better care and this reliance is fueling the broader digital health revolution. However, social media is not only transforming the conventional world of physician engagement, it’s also revolutionizing healthcare data collection processes. Just as HCPs are leaning on social media for specific reasons such as collaboration, learning, depth of available expertise and easy access, the industry is relying on data collected from physician communities to develop needed market insights, according to SERMO, a private social network for physicians.

As the healthcare industry becomes more digitalized, outlined below are key ways the advent of social media is bringing the so-called “antiquated” behavior of the healthcare industry into the 21st century:

Public And Private Social Networks Provide Different Perspectives

Considering that physicians are constantly surrounded by sensitive information, it’s reasonable that public social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter vs. private communities, like SERMO, stimulate transparent and valuable conversations. Research shows that with Twitter, HCPs frequently share and react to medical congress meetings, clinical trial data and product news. In private platforms, physicians’ conversations are frequently more qualitative with real-life experiences.

Connecting With Colleagues Around The Globe

Reach has become an incredible asset for physicians leveraging social media with real-time crowd sourcing and sharing of data among peers. When HCPs need to consult rapidly with other experts in a particular disease area, they may not always be able to turn to peers in their local hospital. With social media, they can start a worldwide conversation to find the expert opinion they need.

HCPs Are Behaving Differently Across Social Channels

HCP specialties behave differently across social channels and various factors drive posts on each channel. In fact, physicians reflect different attitudes toward products in their posts on different channels. Sentiment analysis is a technique often used to indicate those positive or negative feelings expressed in qualitative verbatim data.

On private platforms, HCPs are typically considering their own experience, so their views shared may be associated with what they have read from others or posted themselves on the private network. On Twitter, however, much of what HCPs post is directly linked to other sources, including mainstream media, medical journals, policy influencers and peers. In this environment it is possible that their expressed views may provide a glimpse into future hopes and expectations.

Online Conversations Can Be Used To Understand Physician Needs And Perceptions

With private networks, data can be collected to analyze how HCPs perceive new research and therapies, the latest trends and prescribing habits. Information can be used to identify how doctors talk about their needs, the moment their product perception changes and how they vary in different digital environments. Obtaining a firsthand view into how different channels impact physician terminology, insights and treatment approaches offer another opportunity for healthcare brands to take action.

It can’t be stressed enough how social media will continue to play a role in connecting physicians, patients and various stakeholders. How the pharmaceutical industry, medical technology and the healthcare organizations that serve those industries use this data now available to them will be critical to how they maintain their own competitive edge as the digital health revolution continues to bring the healthcare industry in the 21st century.

To learn more about the power of data and HCP online conversations, please check out this recent study by SERMO and CREATION Pinpoint.

About The Author

Erin Fitzgerald is SVP Marketing at SERMO.