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Social media presence is no longer an afterthought for companies and organizations. All brands from every industry have a presence across numerous social media platforms, and are actively interacting with their customers. So why is the healthcare industry behind the curve?

The biggest barrier to breakthrough into social media for healthcare companies seems to be patient privacy, aka HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Keeping patient information confidential proves to be difficult on social media platforms everyone can use. Additionally, the FDA requires fair balance in any post a company makes, meaning stating benefits with potential risks. This past summer, Kim Kardashian promoted a drug called Diclegis, used to treat morning sickness during pregnancy, on her Instagram account, and only stated the benefits of the product. The FDA immediately issued the drug company a warning by the FDA, and required it to take down the post, but not before nearly 46 million followers saw it.1

How are drug companies supposed to interact with their audience with such limited options and strict HIPAA regulations? The trick is education. Social media can be a great way to spread awareness about public health issues. Unique campaigns such as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge went viral for this reason; 440 million people alone viewed thesevideos on Facebook.2 Because the Ice Bucket Challenge was an unbranded campaign determined to raise awareness of a disease, and not a promotion for a product, the organization avoided FDA regulations. Limiting self-promotion and focusing on ways to help your audience certainly takes away some of the barriers discussed earlier. Giving your audience key content can drive a brand home. Video tutorials on how to take a drug, product demos for medical devices, and infographics highlighting wellness tips are just a small sample of the endless possibilities to create meaningful content. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc, can all be an endless hub of constantly updated information a consumer can use to become more aware of their condition, leading to a healthier life.

Though social media is not the definitive answer to improved patient engagement, it can easily become a major component in communicating with target audiences. Like most technology, social media is perpetually evolving, and should now be a required marketing tool for healthcare.

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Resources:

  1. Thomas M. Burton, The Wall Street Journal; “FDA Sends Warning Letter After Kim Kardashian Touts Morning-Sickness Drug”, viewed 2/3/2016; http://www.wsj.com/articles/fda-sends-warning-letter-after-kim-kardashian-touts-morning-sickness-drug-1439401985
  2. Ngan Ton, Mavrck; “The Social Media Statistics That Fueled The Biggest Topics of 2014”, viewed 2/3/2016; http://www.mavrck.co/social-media-statistics-that-fueled-the-biggest-topics-of-2014/
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