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Social media in the healthcare arena

Photo courtesy of Striatic via Flickr

Photo courtesy of Striatic via Flickr

Engage, engage, engage. That’s the mantra of social media marketers who know how to harness the power of conversations online on behalf of brands. Yet, for one sector in particular, engagement on blogs and social networks carries special concerns. That sector is healthcare. Medical societies, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and doctors in private practice tend to view social media as fraught with pitfalls. But there are great opportunities for those willing to take the plunge.

I’m giving a talk today at the American Medical Association‘s annual Medical Communications Conference. Obviously, at a time when the Obama administration is considering a healthcare overhaul, medicine and health insurance are hot topics on the social Web. Using the Cision Social Media Dashboard, I gauged the volume of chatter online in the healthcare space, and the results were astounding. I found more than 218,000 messages about healthcare on social networks and blogs in the past month, including more than 92,000 blog posts. Health insurance got 81,000 mentions including 41,000 blog posts.

Healthcare companies can’t afford to ignore all this chatter, but at the same time, medical professionals need to take special care when engaging with consumers online. If you’re a doctor who wants to answer consumers’ questions via online forums and social networks, either as a form of marketing or just as a public service, most attorneys recommend that you include a disclaimer stating that you don’t have a relationship with the poster of the question, that you’re providing general information and that your answer isn’t to be taken as a diagnosis. Lots of physicians already include a disclaimer like this in every e-mail they send.

Social media offers lots of opportunities for healthcare providers, and many are already taking advantage. Witness the Mayo Clinic’s excellent YouTube channel, for example, which offers nearly 300 videos. If you’re a healthcare marketer, what are your concerns about getting involved in social media?

Tags : social media

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