Healthy Possibilities with Social Media Analytics

Consulting family and friends is commonplace in the health-decision-making process. With the emergence of social media, this circle of advisors has widened and grown. We understand how social media has changed the way businesses communicate and function today. The same is happening in the healthcare industry, with social media acting as a catalyst in changing how we access, seek and utilize healthcare. Today, consumers have the option to seek medical advice on social media. This has opened new channels of communication for healthcare stakeholders.

A report by Deloitte (Survey of U.S. Health Care Consumers - 2012) 80% of Internet users in the U.S. look for health-related information online. Further this information is mostly sought over social media forums. Yet, the healthcare industry is slow in adopting newer technologies. The slow rate of adoption is mainly due to lack of clarity on regulations, content control issues, privacy concerns and associated risks. Other challenges are as follows:

  • Absence of a definitive regulatory framework makes it difficult to evaluate risks of financial penalty and litigation
  • Physicians might not be comfortable while interacting with their patients using social channels due to lack of regulations
  • Reputation risk makes healthcare organizations wary of negative patient experience on social channels and need for expensive content control
  • Uncertainty in financial viability as the ROI cannot be measured in the digital/social space

Blending Analytics with Social Media

Irrespective of all inhibitions, social media is picking up pace. In fact, statistics reveal startling penetration of social media forums in healthcare. Patients and care givers widely seek social media as a source of knowledge with online healthcare communities such as CureTogether, MedHelp, PatientsLikeMe and 23andMe being the top medical advice-seeking portals. PatientsLikeMe has 150k registered users and MedHelp has over 12 million users. Social digital channels are also used by the likes of Kaiser Permanente (KP) and MD Anderson to interact and engage with their members.

Social networking platforms such as Twitter, too, have had a great impact. The number of followers of KP’s Twitter handle (@kpthrive) went from a few hundreds to 75,000 within 48 hours. This 92% increase in followers, who were not affiliated with KP, resulted in positive marketing for KP.

The volume of content that is generated over such platforms is massive. Raw content has incredible value in terms of inferable data. However, to get any insight from this content, data needs to be segmented, analyzed and curated meaningfully.

Data gathered from social media platforms can be mined and analyzed to address hurdles. Social media stakeholders can now engage meaningfully with their members, but can also leverage the data generated to improve operational efficiency and expand member base.

That’s not all. Social media analytics can also influence the drug lifecycle. Qualitative and quantitative analysis of conversations reveals rich insights to shape research, raise awareness, monitor competition, marketing campaigns, and engage with consumer groups.

Business value in Social Media Analytics

Business value created for healthcare using social media analytics can be termed as either alternate value or additional value. Alternate value is created when social media helps reduce cost of an existing process in terms of effort, time or capital. Additional value is created when an entirely new outcome is achieved. Traditionally, analytics help healthcare stakeholders determine brand competitive value, consumer emotions, key information gaps, requirements, trends and indicators.

Technically, a database that can hold raw information has a system that segments this data and a process to churn out meaningful insights. A typical social media analytics database would hold data from various sources — Twitter, Facebook, Google+, blogs and online forums. After gathering the data from these social media channels, it would segment the data based on attributes such as topic, disease, drugs, location, profession, hospital, pharmacy, relevance, time and influence.

Segmented data can be used for:

  • Social listening: Data mining comments, tweets, blogs and surveys for rich insights; helps improve quality of services
  • Tweet live procedures: Attracts new patients and medical recruits
  • Reach mainstream media: Leverage social media channels for maximum coverage across mainstream media and industry publications
  • Provide accurate information to patients: Establish the organization as a trusted partner that provides accurate and reliable information to users

Social media will continue to disrupt healthcare in ways we are only starting to understand. To realize its full potential, stakeholders need to contribute and participate so that this rich source of data can be analyzed and used for member empowerment and improved operational efficiency. It offers a complex yet rich source of insights to improve care. Over time, social media will be considered part of routine healthcare processes and consumers’ daily lives, which will have a strong influence on healthcare choices. To maximize patient engagement, healthcare players are developing and optimizing their social media profile in addition to harnessing existing social media analytics data. This data-driven approach will benefit players in multiple ways, including new member enrollment, enhanced satisfaction, improved brand recognition and greater returns.

Co-Authored by: Prachi Jain, Business Analyst.