The FH 2015 Social Health Survey: A Second Opinion From Dr. Digital

April 20, 2015

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Melissa Solomon and Adam Silverstein contributed to this article.

Survey finds over 50% of patients consult with Dr. Google or Facebook before or after a doctor’s visit

Our Social Health survey of more than 500 people reveals some important patient behaviors. First, patients form an opinion about a treatment option before they step foot in a doctor’s office, and second, when a physician writes a prescription, patients return to social media channels to learn even more before filling it.

Social Health Survey post 3 graph

  • Not surprising, but notable for the future of health tech, 40% of Millennials are ready to share health information collected by mobile apps or wearable devices with their doctor. Facebook is the leading social platform to learn about specific medications and medical procedures among this demographic (50%)
  • Adults ages 18 to 49 rely on information they find online in advance of seeing a doctor (57%). This group is likely looking to better understand the illness and gather a checklist or find questions to ask a health care professional
  • Boomers (50 – 68) are the most active when it comes and asking a doctor about something they read on social media. This generation exhibits similar digital research behavior when looking to buy electronics online (according to a December 2013 survey by Prosper Insights & Analytics), potentially due to their desire to be an active participant in maintaining a balanced, healthy lifestyle
  • Those over 50 most often rely on websites with medical information (73%), versus social media or community sites. One-third watches relevant videos, demonstrating they are highly engaged in finding and viewing content in multiple mediums

Clearly, patients are forming important opinions about treatments before, during and after a visit with a doctor. This appetite for information provides an important opportunity for engagement from the healthcare organizations making those treatments.

FleishmanHillard believes that 2015 is a turning point in how pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, in a highly regulated environment, can successfully and confidently use social media to engage their stakeholders. With the U.S. FDA issuing its clearest guidance yet – and consumers’ and physicians’ appetites larger than ever for information to guide their treatment decisions – being an authoritative, trustworthy partner in those conversations has never been more important. The organizations that plan successfully this year within this environment will be best positioned to create strong social media engagement next year. Health truly is social.

FleishmanHillard’s social health group combines the firm’s healthcare communications, digital and social media expertise. Working together closely, this team is hosting interactive workshops that share the current state of social media, where it’s headed, and how organizations can use it most effectively in an industry where compliant — yet collaborative — communication is essential.