Last month I heard the story of a fairly young man who had to have the lower half of his leg amputated because he thought he thought the numbness and tingling were “nothing”. It turns out that he was an undiagnosed diabetic whose diabetes was out of control. One has to wonder how many more people are out there who are undiagnosed with a variety of health problems and the long-term social and financial costs ?
Pew just released their latest findings on ePatients and the findings are more of an indication that the Internet continues to play a key role in health;
• Empowered and engaged – 61% of all adults get health info online (80% of internet users)
• Participatory e-patients – 60% consume social media; 29% have contributed content
• Crowd-sourced via e-patients: 19% consult rankings/reviews of providers (5% post them); 18% consult reviews of hospitals (4% post them)
￼How online searches affect decisions
• 60% of e-patients say the information found online affected a decision about how to treat an illness or condition.
• 56% say it changed their overall approach to maintaining their health or the health of someone they help take care of.
• 53% say it lead them to ask a doctor new questions, or to get a second opinion from another doctor.
Of course the problem with this was clearly addressed in an AMA Press release in 2001:
Remember that the Internet cannot replace a physician’s expertise and training …. If you have questions, trust your physician, not a chat room.
So what are the implications for healthcare marketers ? Well first we have to ensure that there is good credible content for patients to read but more importantly we also have to consistently remind patients that information on the Internet does not replace a HCP and that not seeing a HCP could result in long lasting damage to patients with dire consequences. Every callout on every page should remind people to see their doctors at least twice a year for checkups and insurers should charge higher premiums for customers who don’t get regular routine physicals because it is less expensive strategically than letting minor health problems become major health problems.
In social media influencers who offer self-treatment advice should be warned that the advice they give could be dangerous to others. Supplements do not replace Rx products when a majority of health problems arise.
Too many people are not going to see their doctors on a regular basis and they need to be educated on why that is a bad idea. No printed or interactive forum can replace a trained medical professional.
- Are you an ePatient? (enbloommedia.com)
- Patients: Give me some truth (worldofdtcmarketing.com)
- ePatients Come Together to Brainstorm and Share (brassandivory.org)
- ePatient Connections: A Patient Checks In. (sixuntilme.com)
- eHealth and Patient Engagement: Be ‘Now’ or Be Gone (recruitingforhealthcarejobs.wordpress.com)