Using social media to fill our patients’ information needs

Posted by: on Jan 18, 2013 | No Comments

I have not contributed with a blog for quite some time. At the start of a new year, it is common to make promises and commitments. I will now try to blog more frequently, in particular when there is a certain theme that does interest me and I want to share it with other colleagues and friends across the world.

Social media — that is just a passing fad, right? Hardly! We talk often about social media these days; Facebook has more than 1 billion member accounts, Twitter several hundred million.

BlogThe question that we in Diaverum need to answer is: what role does social media play in the area of healthcare and healthcare services in particular? Another question concerns patients and staff in a clinic or hospital: how common is it that they use social media to educate themselves, to share best practices, to connect with other patients or staff?

There are no easy or straightforward answers.

In Diaverum, there are patients today who ‘tweet’. There are employees in our kidney centres and countries using Facebook to reach out. I try to follow this as much as I can but for obvious reasons it is difficult to follow everything that is written about Diaverum; however it is wonderful to witness the stories being told.

When visiting clinics around the world (Diaverum is now present in 18 countries and serves almost 22,000 patients), I have met patients who connect with other patients via social media during their treatment sessions. Just to give you some insight into life in the clinic, our patients are typically spending 18 hours per week in a clinic. In most cases a treatment session lasts for 4 hours but there is work to be done before the session (e.g. lab tests, check-ups) and also after the session which means that the total number of hours spent in one of our centres amounts to approximately 18. This is how it works week in and week out, year in and year out, unless the patient receives a transplant or is on our home care programme.

Many times it is hard to kill the time that they spend. Yes, books can be read and TV can be watched, but an increasing number of patients want to use their time on dialysis to communicate, to reach out. An increasing number of patients and relatives also want to use social media to learn more about the disease and how to live a life as rich as possible with the disease. And we need to act as the enabler for this.

There are some statistics that I have read recently that allude to this theme. A report from PwC, published in the spring of 2012, shows that one-third of healthcare consumers (not only related to dialysis) use social media for seeking or sharing medical information; 41 per cent say tools like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and online forums influence their choice of a specific hospital, medical facility or doctor.

Even more interesting is the fact that 57 per cent of consumers said a hospital’s social media connections would strongly affect their decision to receive treatment at a certain facility.

Even if these numbers should be read with a degree of caution it is clear that a healthcare service provider needs to include social media as part of its business strategy and not only see it as a marketing tool. We need to be part of this discussion. I want to encourage patients and staff to share stories and best practice.

To answer the questions I set at the start, this is the role we have to play. In Diaverum, with our global reach, I am sure that patients and staff can inspire each other and support each other. What is done well in a certain area in one country can be picked up in another country.

And it will only become more important to get this right. If we look at the global picture, the number of people throughout the world with chronic kidney disease or with end stage renal disease is increasing year on year. By 2020 the number of patients dependent on dialysis to survive will have increased from just over 2 million in 2010 to almost 4 million. The need for these patients and for the staff caring for these patients to reach out and to communicate via social media is definitely going to increase.

And I’m personally looking forward to a year with increased focus on social media within Diaverum.

Dag

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Foto på Dag Andersson