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Why the Healthcare Social Media Chatter Matters

Sometimes when I write about social media in healthcare I imagine a make-believe healthcare technology purist that I’ve conjured up rolling her eyes at me. She scoffs at my adding to the zettabytes of digital data on one of the more “softball” technology topics. What does social media have to do with “real” healthcare technology anyway? I should be using alpha-numeric acronyms and drawing IT diagrams with lots of arrows of varying size. This is healthcare technology, after all. There are more important things to write about than social media, right?

I answer such sentiment by saying that healthcare social media is one of the most important healthcare IT topics of our day. Social media is informing and enabling rapid evolution both in terms of healthcare delivery and Health IT innovation in and of itself. Why? While measures like data integration through 5010 and ICD-10 and reporting requirements through meaningful use are driven by government incentives and regulations, the move towards a more collaborative healthcare model is being driven by a massive and growing group of healthcare consumers popularly dubbed “epatients”.

This is a growing and powerful force that is challenging the traditional barriers between patients and their healthcare providers. Approximately one-third of adults in the US are using social media to collect health information. 58% of individuals surveyed assume a diagnosis based on the information they gathered online. Doctors are modifying their ways of engaging out of necessity, and healthcare organizations are having to adapt their business models in response. A blog post (written by Kelly Young) on Dr. Luks blog asked if e-patients were crossing “the line” when it came to altering their relationship with healthcare providers. She adeptly answered, “What line?”

Social media has been a game changer. There are many opportunities for healthcare providers to become far more efficient using social collaboration tools, including many areas where they could save time, money and build stronger relationships with their patients. These savings and creation of goodwill can begin while setting appointments and move forward to impact every area of care. In a recent Healthcare IT News article entitled “Docs, patients ready for online tools” the following facts were disclosed:

  • 95% of doctors and 81% of patients want to fill out medical forms online before an appointment
  • 1 in 4 healthcare providers that do not offer online tools say it is difficult to reach patients for communications about appointments and lab results
  • 1/3 of healthcare providers spend 3+ hours per day trying to follow up with patients
  • 72% of patients complain about having to repeatedly fill out the same paper forms

ePatients have been making waves for some time, and providers and health plans are now adapting. Last week at AHIP we discussed the rise of these healthcare consumers. In discussions on ACO we discuss the changing role of patients within the care delivery model. Healthcare providers are trying to keep up with patient sentiment in public forums. Doctors are responding to the collection of healthcare information online. Many are experimenting with a more cost-effective care delivery models replete with virtual visits and social media communication forums. Health insurers are looking for better ways to communicate with members. Leading healthcare organizations are now asking how they too can communicate with their patients in social media platforms through HIPAA compliant channels. Software providers are hunkered down in their labs developing these HIPAA compliant and mobile technology solutions to meet demand. Conversations about all of these topics and more are taking place right now in social media forums across the globe.

So, if you are searching for the prime channel to tap into all of those epatients that are transforming their role in healthcare, and the healthcare business models of both providers and payers as a result, look no further than the hashtags and status updates of individuals who have found their voice on social media. Trust me, if you are not listening then there are plenty who will.

With that in mind, I would like to send a hearty congratulations to all of those mentioned as top contributors to HIT social media on the list compiled by HL7 Standards. It’s an honor that Perficient is named as the top organizational contributor to Healthcare IT conversations in social media!

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