June 6, 2013
Looking to social media, emails and texts for medical advice
Social media and other interactive digital platforms are increasingly serving as outlets for medical advice. A PwC study last year determined that a third of U.S. adults use social media to get medical information. Another study found that more than 90 percent of respondents aged 18 to 24 trust health information obtained via social media and that more than a quarter of U.S. hospitals have a social media presence. Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, for example, posts relatable family stories and parental advice on its Facebook page, as does HCA Healthcare, the Nashville-based hospital chain. Providers like these compete for consumer attention with populist sources like TV’s Dr. Mehmet Oz, whose Twitter feed is filled with tips, like adding vinegar to one’s diet to ward off diabetes.
HealthTap is a startup that connects people seeking medical information with doctors, either online or via mobile app. The site now gets more than 7.5 million unique visitors a month. While few doctors connect with patients via social media, email can help health care providers efficiently address people’s concerns. Le Bonheur fields emails relating to medical conditions through a general account, to preserve anonymity, according to Digital Trends. Sherpaa, a startup that helps employers select health care providers, gives company employees access to a network of doctors available to answer questions around the clock by email, text or phone. The company says this helps doctors form better relationships with clients over time.