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Social media in healthcare could be enhanced by the new iPad

The iPad Mini will probably represent the optimal form factor for physicians who want to use a tablet. The smaller screen, lighter weight and overall size will mean that these devices will truly become ultra-portable whilst the cheaper price will make this device accessible to more people further improving uptake amongst healthcare professionals.  It will also bring us a step closer to connected patients and healthcare professionals.

Adoption of tablet devices by US physicians, for whom the iPad is the dominant platform, has nearly doubled since 2011, with 62 per cent of those surveyed saying they use one for professional purposes. Half of those doctors who own a tablet have used their device at the point-of-care, Manhattan Research said.  iPads are going to drive adoption of social media as well as physicians become more familiar with their benefits and minuses.

The influential nature of online social networks is not without risk, especially in health.  All too often ‘social media allow rumor mills to be exaggerated’, and misinformation or ‘scare’ campaigns easily circulate and become resilient. However like it or not patients are using social media to get information on healthcare.  It’s estimated that as many as 3% of patients are going online to social media to research health conditions.

According to the Buzz Bin “Nearly all doctors are using some type of social media for personal uses, such as Facebook and Twitter. According to the online physician learning collaborative QuantiaMD, nearly 90% of physicians reported that they used at least one social media site personally.

Gradually, more physicians are also using social media professionally. A study published in The Journal of Medical Internet Research found that a growing number of physicians are using social media to share medical information with each other and to stay up to date. In addition, although in fewer numbers, there are some physicians like Wendy Sue Swanson, a pediatrician and author of the Seattle Mama Doc blog, who see social media as a useful tool for sharing trusted health information with their patients. Dr. Swanson feels that physicians have a responsibility to be online to provide credible health information and to counter some of the misinformation found online. Another pediatrician Natasha Burgert, M.D. from Kansas City, Mo., uses social media to communicate with her adolescent patients. With permission from their parents, Dr. Burgert sends text messages to patients to check up on how they are feeling and she sends them links to relevant information they can find online.

What does all this mean for healthcare marketers ?

(1) They need to stop think about traditional detailing and develop a strategic approach to integrating the patient/physician relationship.  For example if physicians are going to check on patients via social media or eMail they should be able to include links to relevant information that patients can use.

(2) Start testing now and share learnings with what works and what doesn’t work.

(3) Develop in house capabilities.  Don’t rely too much on vendors unless you are willing to form a long term strategic relationship with them.

(4) Over the next few years we are going to see a lot of platforms arise that are targeted to HCP’s.  However the ones that will be successful are going to be people who conduct research to learn what HCP’s want and need rather than launching and oping to build an audience.

The key for pharma marketers is how do we enhance the relationship with HCP’s without the hard sell and take those first steps back to earning trust.  It’s a changing environment but iPads represent one hell of an opportunity.



4 thoughts on “Social media in healthcare could be enhanced by the new iPad

  1. Richard,
    First off, your hardware numbers are flawed. There is NO WAY 62 percent of physicians use an iPad professionally. It may be headed that way, but is nowhere near that yet.

    Second, making the jump from social between docs to patients is HUGE, and the number of HCPs willing and able to do this very small.
    I certainly agree with your fourth point, but that is about it.

    Vendors need to get away from OS specific apps and start building responsive web apps using HTML5 and other non-propriety systems. In this way these apps can be used on laptops – which is what the majority of HCPs use professionally, or on touch devices as they inch their way into use.

    But as I keep saying, no pharma/device company in their right mind is going to be doing more than dipping their toes into Social until the FDA provides some clear guidance. It doesn’t matter how many times you are any other consultant/agency keeps telling them they should. It is simply a bad business decision at this time.

  2. Bill: I could easily see that a majority of physicians use iPads for professional purposes (tax deduction) as well as personal. That data is from Manhattan Research and you can find it on their website.

    A study published online Sept. 24 in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found that 85% of oncologists and primary care physicians use social media at least once a week or once a day to scan or explore health information. Sixty percent said social media improves the care they deliver. The results were based on 485 responses researchers received out of 1,685 surveys that were emailed at random to practicing oncologists and primary care physicians.

    Unlike other studies on physician use of social media that tend to lump professional and personal use together, lead author Brian McGowan, PhD, an education technology consultant from Blue Bell, Pa., and his fellow researchers narrowed the focus to how social media can be used for professional development and lifelong learning.

    Of the physicians surveyed, 24.1% said they use social media daily to scan or explore new medical information, and 14.2% contribute information daily. On a weekly basis, 61% scanned and explored and 46% contributed information. Fifty-eight percent perceive social media to be beneficial and a good way to get current, high-quality information.

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