Use of Social Media for Patient Engagement

The latest Ipsos Interactive Reid Report offers some fascinating insights into the channels that people use for text communication.  While many of us in the health sector may still rely on email for text communications, there appears to be an overall movement away from email in favour of other text communications including Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft Messenger, and Blackberry Messenger.

According to the report, the average number of emails that Canadians receive in a week declined by 35% in a little over a year.  Study author and Ipsos Reid Associate Vice-President Mark Laver notes:

“These findings also have significant implications for those businesses that rely on email marketing for some or all of their business. These companies should be evaluating to see if social media platforms are an effective method for distributing their message.”

As the health sector rushes to catch up with other industries in use of electronic communications with their clients / patients, the choice of electronic communication medium needs to be carefully considered.  While many people have been encouraging physicians to communicate with patients via e-mail, we should be careful to not favour one form of electronic communications technology over another.  Technology continues to evolve rapidly and we need to be mindful of the shifts in user preference that technology changes engender.


8 responses to “Use of Social Media for Patient Engagement

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Use of Social Media for Patient Engagement « eHealth Musings --

  2. Pingback: ICMCC News Page » Use of Social Media for Patient Engagement

  3. Hi Mike,

    For those of us who have embraced social media, the reaction to your post is one of stupefaction. You seem to be declaring the overwhelmingly obvious. But I must remind myself not everyone is swept up by the “power” of social media.

    But social media is here and as a communication tool should be embraced by the health sector. It sure doesn’t feel like they are “rushing” to catch up. As I was contemplating how to articulate my frustration with the slow adoption of emerging technologies by government and healthcare, a colleague at Creation Interactive Paul Grant published this astute article:

    I look forward to continuing this conversation.

    • Colleen,
      Thanks for contributing to our blog. I agree with your views … the power of social media seems obvious to us who have embraced it. That said, I have been involved in the Internet since the mid-1980’s and was a founding executive at two ISPs, one of which was created pre-Web. I have personally witnessed many industries struggle with how best to embrace the Internet and even seen several actively fight it for a while. So, the health sector’s reluctance to embrace social media does not surprise me in the least.


  4. I think it has something to do with the culture of healthcare, and the maximum rate of change that is acceptable for healthcare services delivery folks. I agree with both of the comments on this post, and I’m proud to say I was using ICQ on dial up back in the late 90s.

    The challenge is to some extent how much bandwidth do physicians/nurses/etc really have in there day to day lives? Call me a luddite, but I think we are expecting too much for the mainstream docs/nurses to be up to speed on the latest form of social media. They are far to busy seeing patients.


  5. Clinicians have private lives too and I suspect like everyone else at least some of them are using social media in their personal lives. So, while some clinicians may not be aware of social media, I don’t think that this ignorance is the only reason for reluctance to use social media.


  6. Hi Mike and Mark,

    Great to have this conversation.

    There are a few notables on Twitter like The Canadian Interprofessional Health Collaborative (@CIHC_ca). They just started #IPChat (Interprofessional chat) on the 4’s 4th, 14th, 24th on every month at 8pm EST.

    Here’s the transcript from last night’s chat Timings are off. See 12-1am.

    I agree that time is a precious commodity, especially for healthcare professionals taking care of patients on the front line. Where can social media fit in for them? I have heard murmurings that it can help save time, but these were from US-based doctors. I’d like to generate a conversation about healthcare and social media in the Canadian context and have often considered starting a tweet chat #hcsmca, sister to #hcsm (US) and #hcsmeu (Europe).

    Here is an article I wrote of the BMJ blog about what healthcare professionals can learn from patient conversations in online communities. I particularly like the conversation the initial entry generated.

  7. Karen Krisfalusi

    Hi Mike,
    Thanks for inviting me to comment on your post.

    My thoughts on this have to do with the privacy and data integrity of personal health records. It strikes me that irrespective of the means of communication the conversation should be entered into the PHR. Thus any interface used by physicians should have the feature to automatically copy all correspondence to the relevant file. If a patient ‘tweeted’ a request for a prescription that might violate a standard of privacy that physicians are legislated to respect. Thus the prescription couldn’t be ‘tweeted’ back. It seems to me that restrictions about how correspondance is accomplished should be well tolerated once the document management aspects and their guiding policies are set out to stakeholders.

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