The Growing Influence of Social Media on Healthcare

    September 5, 2011

Social media has helped to fill a void across various industries. It has brought a human element to many companies and provided opportunities that probably would not have happened through conventional channels.

Interestingly, social media is even making its way into the healthcare industry. Now, while you might not be able to “friend” your doctor on Facebook, the industry is putting forth an effort to integrate social media.

Healthcare, like the finance industry, is difficult, since it is heavily regulated. It is taking some time for health professionals to get on board, but in the meantime, consumers have embraced it with full force. Whether it is for keeping friends and family updated on a loved one’s condition, connecting with others in similar situations, or educating people on their own health experience, consumers have successfully made healthcare relevant to social media.

Sona Mehring, the CEO and Founder of CaringBridge, calls this activity “compassion technology.” She coined the term back in 1997, before most of the social sites that we’re familiar with were around. She told us that technology has a tendency to be cold and impersonal but that she knew it could be used in other ways. She wanted to “merge technology with its ability to connect people in a very emotional way.”

Through the tragic loss of her friend’s baby, Brighid, Mehring put her “compassion technology” to use. Before Brighid passed away, she created a website to keep everyone up-to-date on her condition. Through the experience, she wanted to give other people the ability to do the same and created CaringBridge.

At this point, social media and healthcare are most commonly used together to create a support system. This usage has been very successful and has given a sense of empowerment to patients. Fortunately, as evidenced by organizations like the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, healthcare professionals are showing a desire to become involved with it as well.

As seen in this post from the organization, there are many challenges involved with integrating social media into healthcare. The interactions that doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers make will vary from patient to patient and disease to disease, but they have the potential to build stronger and more trusting relationships.

Social media isn’t designed or intended to replace traditional practices, but instead, is meant to enhance them. It has effectively done this in many industries, and it looks like it might complement the healthcare industry going forward.

Would you like to see your healthcare providers utilize social media and social functions?