Written by Richard Marcil on May 8, 2012
in Healthcare Marketing

I just finished reviewing a presentation from the Canadian Medical Association on how Canadian physicians use social media.

Turns out, doctors are using social media just as much as the average Canadian but not for clinical use. Not surprisingly, two big barriers are stopping them:

1. Fear of not knowing the regulatory and legal implications of communicating to peers and patients via social media; and

2. Lack of proven clinical benefits to communicating directly with patients.

As a healthcare marketer, does that mean that I shouldn’t explore and invest in social media? Heck no. As there’s little doubt that social tools will increasingly be used by physicians and patients.

We know that Canadian physicians leverage online resources such as the Sermo network and the American Heart Association’s website  for learning and peer interaction. And new patient counseling tools like Jiff: Your Circle of Health will further pull physicians into social media. So, for now, let’s keep learning about social media and best practices. Let’s monitor what influential Canadian physicians are doing and saying online, via their Twitter feeds, blogs and more. I do wonder though, if the bigger bogey isn’t consumers and patients? At least in the short- to medium-term. For them, there are no regulatory and legal barriers, and we know that they are already engaging deeply with social media. The age of healthcare consumerism is here, and every day patients are seeing Dr. Google, questioning their physicians’ recommendations, listening to advice from questionable sources, trying non-traditional and un-proven treatments, etc. All of which can lead to brand switching, non-compliance, and ultimately, poor therapeutic outcomes. This is all happening today. To our brands. To your brands.

As healthcare marketers, what is the biggest threat and opportunity facing our brands with respect to social media? Is it health professionals who are slowly testing the waters? I suspect it is consumers and patients who are already deep in it.

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