The 3 Social Media Platforms Your Health Care Organization Needs to Be Using
The social media industry has vastly been expanding during recent years. Facebook, which began with 5 million users in 2005, today has more than 845 million participants and that trend doesn’t seem to show signs of slowing.
While retail and hospitality industries quickly saw the potential in sharing, liking and following, the health care sector was one that was slow to adapt. That is slowly changing, however.
According to a recent survey by PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI), hospitals, insurers and pharma manufacturers can benefit greatly from jumping onto the social media bandwagon. HRI found that one-third of consumers are using social media for health-related matters. That’s 1,060 adults in the U.S. alone that can be reached.
The virtual aspect of social media enhances communications by creating an open, often anonymous space for engaging and exchanging information.
“People like to access and connect with other people’s stories, even if they’re unwilling to share their own,” said Ellen Beckjord, assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, in the report. Beckjord’s research has focused on how making health information available electronically can affect disease management.
But which platforms are the most instrumental to use during this shift in health care? According to HRI, they are Facebook, Youtube and Twitter.
“Facebook is turning into a behind-the-scenes customer service forum for answering people’s questions,” stated Ryan Paul, social media specialist at Children’s Hospital Boston, in the report. “When people have trouble finding what they need on our website (or sometimes they don’t even check the website), they will come to Facebook and ask for help, including how to change an appointment, how to find a certain doctor, etc.”
Facebook has numerous uses for a health care organization besides branding. Take Mercy, for example. They are creating an application that allows people to “share” their doctors on Facebook, and the physician’s Mercy profile will appear on an individual’s Facebook page. This turns social media into business strategy.
Social giant YouTube is one of the most commonly used channels for viewing health-related information. Major health care companies such as Kaiser Permanente and Elekta are using YouTube to provide insight into their organizations, offer vital health advice and share breaking news updates in the industry, such as the recent Ebola epidemic.
Twitter has shown tremendous growth since its inception, reporting 460,000 new accounts created on average per day. The platform offers physicians the ability to connect with patients on a more personal level and answer their questions and/or concerns promptly.
For example, Josh Goldstein, director of social media at Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, was monitoring the hospital’s brand on Twitter and saw that a patient was complaining of his long wait time.
Upon looking into the matter, it was discovered that the patient had not signed in at the computer kiosk. Within a matter of minutes, the hospital was able to resolve the matter.
The health care industry is built upon relationships, so it only makes sense that social media should not just be looked at as a technology and process, but rather a capability that can help drive connections more effectively.
Getting ready for cloud data-driven healthcare
As healthcare continues to recognise the value of data and digital transformation, many organisations are relying on the cloud to make their future-forward and data-centric thinking a reality. In fact, the global healthcare cloud computing market was valued at approximately $18 billion and is expected to generate around $61 billion USD by 2025.
At the forefront of these changes is the rapid adoption of cloud-based, or software-as-a-service (SaaS), applications. These apps can be used to handle patient interactions, track prescriptions, care, billing and more, and the insights derived from this important data can vastly improve operations, procurement and courses of treatment. However, before healthcare organisations can begin to dream about a true data-driven future, they have to deal with a data-driven dilemma: compliance.
Meeting regulation requirements
It’s no secret that healthcare is a highly regulated industry when it comes to data and privacy – and rightfully so. Patient records contain extremely sensitive data that, if changed or erased, could cost someone their life. This is why healthcare systems rely on legacy technologies, like Cerner and Epic EHRs, to manage patient information – the industry knows the vendors put an emphasis on making them as secure as possible.
Yet when SaaS applications are introduced and data starts being moved into them, compliance gets complicated. For example, every time a new application is introduced into an organisation, that organisation must have the vendor complete a BAA (Business Associate Agreement). This agreement essentially puts the responsibility for the safety of patients’ information — maintaining appropriate safeguards and complying with regulations — on the vendor.
However, even with these agreements in place, healthcare systems still are at risk of failing to meet compliance requirements. To comply with HIPAA, U.S. Food and Drug Administration 21 CFR Part 11 and other regulations that stipulate the need to exercise best practices to keep electronic patient data safe, healthcare organisations must maintain comprehensive audit trails – something that gets increasingly difficult when data sits in an application that resides in the vendor’s infrastructure.
Additionally, data often does not stay in the applications – instead healthcare users download, save and copy it into other business intelligence tools, creating data sprawl across the organisation and exposing patient privacy to greater risk.
With so many of these tools that are meant to spur growth and more effective care creating compliance challenges, it begs the question: how can healthcare organisations take advantage of the data they have without risking non-compliance?
Yes, healthcare organisations can adhere to regulations while also getting valuable insights from the wealth of data they have available. However, to help do this, organisations must own their data. This means data must be backed up and stored in an environment that they have control over, rather than in the SaaS vendors’ applications.
Backing up historical SaaS application data directly from an app into an organisation’s own secure cloud infrastructure, such as AWS or Microsoft Azure, makes it easier, and less costly, to maintain a digital chain of custody – or a trail of the different touchpoints of data. This not only increases the visibility and auditability of that data, but organisations can then set appropriate controls around who can access the data.
Likewise, having data from these apps located in one central, easily accessible location can decrease the number of copies floating around an organisation, reducing the surface area of exposure while also making it easier for organisations to securely pull data into business intelligence tools.
When healthcare providers have unfettered access to all their historical data, the possibilities for growth and insights are endless. For example, having ownership and ready access to authorised data can help organisations further implement and support outcome-based care. Insights enabled by this data will help inform diagnoses, prescriptions, treatment plans and more, which benefits not only the patient, but the healthcare ecosystem as a whole.
To keep optimising and improving care, healthcare systems must take advantage of new tools like SaaS applications. By backing up and owning their historical SaaS application data, they can do so while minimising the risk to patient privacy or compliance requirements. Having this ownership and access can propel healthcare organisations to be more data-driven – creating better outcomes for everyone.