Social networking has changed the landscape in health care

In a recent Harvard Business Review Blog, David Armano writes about the six pillars of influence that leads to measurably favorable outcomes.

To achieve measurably better health, the pillars Armano explains can certainly be adopted.

He notes how the “social web can amplify signals, influence behavior and lead to action.”

Social networking has changed the landscape in health care.  Technology has paved the way for instant communication and feedback.

While some companies continue to question the value of social media networking, debating whether or not they should be on Twitter or Facebook, others have superseded the hesitation, and are presently into the next phase of social networking.

The companies who currently have delved into the social media networking space can find their customers are already there, sharing their health concerns, supporting one another, and seeking better health outcomes.  They can interact with them in real-time, and monitor behavior and trends.  According to Deloitte, “Social networks hold considerable potential value for health care organizations because they can be used to reach stakeholders, aggregate information and leverage collaboration.”

The power of social media networking is vast.  Sharing thoughts, ideas, viewpoints, posting updates, collaborating with consumers and colleagues is immeasurable. Tapping into a community of users whose word-of-mouth influence in the social space is fierce, and it goes beyond the standard role of social media networking.

Facebook, Twitter and Google plus are only a few of the social networking platforms utilized, and the millions of individuals who use it have the capability to spread information like wild fire.  They can reach and influence others in their social circles at lightning speed.

Individuals have the capability to influence their friends about their favorite restaurant, movies, electronics and TV shows; but imagine the power that individuals have to influence their circle of friends, and their friends and so on and so on, about better health.

Within the circles of social networking, trust and relationships are formed.  Individuals can take an active role in promoting health and wellness.  Social influence develops based on the trust within the circles of the social network.  Family and friends can help inspire and motivate each other.  They can also hold others within their circles accountable for their actions.  People with influence and trust can help others achieve their health goals.

Applying the science of behavior change in the social networking space possibly may lead to better outcomes.

In a meeting summary from the National Institutes of Health on the Science of Behavior Change, it concluded that:

“The science of behavior change has long suffered from fragmentation along scientific and topical boundaries…Yet because unhealthy behaviors cause so much morbidity and mortality, the status quo cannot prevail. There is, however, renewed hope that the NIH can facilitate progress by supporting research on basic mechanisms of behavior change and by fostering transdisciplinary efforts spanning Institutes, Centers, and levels of analysis.”  NIH SOBC Meeting, June 15-16, 2009 Meeting Summary

As stated above by the National Institutes of Health, “the status quo cannot prevail.”  Moving to the next level which incorporates utilizing the powerful social networking platform that harbors powerful social influence may be an answer to help foster healthy living.

Engaging with a powerful and influential supportive community of family and friends in the social circles, and having health experts offer action plans with inspiration and motivation to better manage chronic conditions and to improve overall well-being; individuals can be guided to better health efficacy.

Barbara Ficarra is creator, executive producer and host of the Health in 30® radio show, and founder and editor-in-chief of

Submit a guest post and be heard on social media’s leading physician voice.

Comments are moderated before they are published. Please read the comment policy.

  • Craig Koniver

    Great article! Thanks for sharing. I whole-heartedly agree that medicine is ripe for making social media a prominent part of the health care architecture. I firmly believe that the more doctors and health organization adopt a robust social media platform, the more able they will be able to positively affect patient outcomes and increase revenue. On the outpatient side, where I work, companies like Avado are very appealing for their embracing of this type of thinking. I believe that the future of medicine will rest with those doctors who learn how to incorporate the digital world as opposed to focusing on the technology of the medicines themselves.

    • Anonymous

      Hi Craig,
      Thank you and I agree with you.  Social media is a powerful platform and if health care organizations and doctors (and other health care professionals) adopt it, possibly it can benefit patients and health care consumers.  I’d love to learn more about your company—how it is embracing this idea.  Thanks again.

  • Amit Bhagat

    Agree..I personally believe that Social Media can be used to overcome lot of problems faced in Healthcare Industry.
    @facebook-100001463176810:disqus  you are right..Doctors should adopt this media..

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Amit for your comments.  I greatly appreciate it. 

  • Godis Pretend

    Consulting Groups and Harvard Business are the root of many a misguided effort to reform human networks.  Their results are based off aggregate group-level data at best, potentially with random ‘case studies’ to highlight the results of errant analyses under the guise of “further evidence”.  These solutions rarely, if ever, contribute to actual improvement.  Rather, they are distractions that merely engage a cadre of managers until performance fails to change, and the “solution mongers” arrive again with another batch of Kool-Aid.  

    It’s bogus.

    The root of the problem is that we fail to run human systems with data architectures built to aggregate individual data.  Each patient has their own outcome. Ideally it would be graded Boolean (easy to optimize algorithms against, easy to find value in the results of linear regression of a non-linear system), but most of the time Likert-type scales are the best that can be produced.  This creates a many-to-many relationship in computer science terms, or in the realm of analytics requires a general linear model (GLM) to attempt to resolve.  These are complex scenarios and this effort is not small feat.  However, at the end of the line, at least the data models are tied to actual patients – not group level data.

    Stop drinking the Kool-Aid.  Open a science book, read a journal article, understand the real problem.  Then, engage the human network to solve the problem, but have a realistic “grade card”.  Enough with the $400/hr shenanigans of White Papers.

    Fire the consultants.  Hire the practitioners.

    • Amit Bhagat

      Hi @facebook-100002110502757:disqus ,
      I agree with your point of Misguidance by Harvard and consulting groups ….But i have a say here,
      We have our brains and we can analyze the facts and figures and further why should we analyze it..On Social Media Platforms we can at least share our experience and know more about any particular Organization..

      • Godis Pretend

        I think my first post was a bit too stern and distracted from my more comprehensive position:

        1 – understand the root design needs
        2 – unleash the human network 
             2.a. – this will include social media tools

        What I’m railing against is the idea that you can slap a social media “band-aid” on a broken infrastructure and expect anything to improve.  

        It won’t.

        That’s why I get all fired up about the ‘proposed’ solutions.  You have to deal with the underlying problem first.  My “pop-culture” analog would be the old show that was on MTV “Pimp My Ride”.  You can “pimp healthcare” all you want with fancy tools, but if the underlying car is a P.O.S. – it might look sexy, but it will still drive like shit.

  • John Frederick

    Interesting thoughts, thanks for sharing.The users of social media are the “worried well” who have smart phones and nimble thumbs However, the biggest cost drivers of healthcare are from medicare patients who have mid to end stage chronic illness, and they don’t use social media. .What about them?

  • Dental Tourism

    Social Networking is an integral part of all businesses and Healthcare is not an exception. Healthcare industry has benefited a lot from social networking sites though the full potential needs to be exploited.

Most Popular