Social Media Matters

This is a guest blog post from colleague Jennifer Neeley, web strategist and professor of social media marketing at San Francisco State University.
Before WebMD or Wikipedia, I worked at ABC-TV and helped bring the content from Dr. Dean Edell‘s into ABC websites. Honestly, it was largely because of Dr. Edell trustworthiness that ABC even considered using his content on their sites. Reliability was also important, but trust was #1.

Belief Building

Those were the days when ‘Internet’ and trustworthy would never be found in the same sentence. Fast-forward 16 years and WebMD now uses that very word to describe its publicly-traded company.
Trusting medical information on the web marked a huge shift in patient expectations and behavior. No longer content to sit on the sidelines when it came to health, most patients are now, and have been for some time, active participants in online healthcare research.
Not only that, there are now two generations born into a world where online research rules. And we are not just talking about investigating washing machines and electronic widgets, but also medical care and wellness providers. A recent Pew Research Study revealed that almost two-thirds of U.S. adults seek healthcare information online.

Niche Building

It is Health 2.0 at this point. Not only do people connect and share in real-time, all the time, on the Internet, they are also looking to interact. Maybe it’s the way we are built as humans, but there is that natural tendency to commit to each and share in our communities. And this surge in activity is occurring in the midst of, and maybe as a consequence of, a rise in mobile device use around the world.
What does this new online activity look like in the realm of healthcare? Well, it is social media-based and centered on community-driven, niche-content arenas. Here are some of its characteristics:

  • You’ll find content aggregators that address passionate areas of human interest and concern, like Fertility Planit. There are now Smartphone apps that help you manage your sleep disorders, such as Sleep Cycle or your menstrual cycle, like Period Tracker.
  • Medical professionals are getting organized into Facebook-like communities too: is a leading social network for physicians.
  • Apps are constantly being developed that promise to increase home-based health care, including apps like Airstrip Cardiology  or Cardiio and platforms like HealthLoop that are getting the seal of approval from clinicians.
  • Even more interesting is how patients are now putting their money where their interests are by crowdfunding medical innovation. An example: Medstartr. In fact, FMDChat recently raised more money than they sought to fund their global, peer-to-peer support for fibromuscular dysplasia.

Patients taking control of their health in a way never imagined in human history, all because of the Internet. I bet ABC would cover that story.