How Social Media is Disrupting Healthcare (And What to Do About It)


90 percent of respondents from 18-24 years of age said they would trust medical information shared by others on their social media networks.

The initial point of proactive research that people are now doing online was christened the Zero Moment of Truth by Google, and it’s absolutely critical in today’s marketing environment.

New technology is being created every day. And consumer behavior is changing along with it. In a world where everyone has access to the same information, it’s all about positioning yourself to win a patient/customer’s attention and trust.

According to PwC’s U.S. health industries leader, Kelly Barnes:

“Healthcare organizations are increasingly operating in a world in which the voice of the consumer impacts the bottom line, and where customer experience is now a matter of dollars and cents. As consumerism in healthcare gains steam, customer feedback has become a determining factor in the success of health organizations. Ratings connect consumers’ experience to quality, and quality connects to financial performance, market share and reputation.”

In most cases, these proactive patients aren’t looking for the best bargain. They are educated and affluent consumers who aren’t afraid of going outside of their local plan to find the best solution to their problem. 

Once the consumer has gotten a grasp of what’s out there, the search becomes more specific. They’ll go to Yelp and compare reviews, ask their friends on Facebook, and then use Zagat to drill down into individual categories.

How Online Rating Services Level the Playing Field

Google purchased Zagat on Sep 8, 2011.

Founded by a husband and wife team over 30 years ago, Zagat has turned into a world-renowned rating service and has grown to serve over 13 categories in 100 countries.

And according to, Zagat’s rating services are expanding to provide patients with a way to share experiences of individual doctors within an insurance network:

“Wellpoint and Anthem BlueCross BlueShield members now have the opportunity to rate their physicians in the areas of trust, communication, availability, and office environment.”

Zagat’s new scope also provides a total quality score that’s made up of individual metrics for different categories. Again according to,

“Under the Zagat rating system, a physician who has a high rate of medical errors but a wonderful bedside manner and a beautiful waiting room can receive a higher rating than a physician with a better professional record but who has trouble communicating with his or her patients or has an outdated waiting room.”

With tools like Zagat and Yelp, a physician’s overall quality score (what patients use to make decisions) can take a serious hit because of a less-than-perfect bedside manner – even if the physician has a solid professional record.

For patients, the ability to quickly consult an easily accessible online community is taking the place of waiting on hold or even trying out various doctors before settling on one.

3 Easy Ways to Adapt & Capitalize 

There’s no avoiding the huge impact that social media will have on your practice (whether you want it to or not). And considering that whole families (not just single patients) are now choosing physicians based on what they see online, the lifetime value of each patient becomes astronomical.

But there are ways to change and evolve your methods in order to reach and engage people online. Last year, a study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research surveyed 485 oncologists and primary care physicians. 60% of those physicians surveyed reported that social media improves the quality of patient care they deliver on a daily basis. It helps with receiving new information and engaging with colleagues or patients.

But you’re already busy enough. Adding one more thing to your already oversized list of daily tasks can seem daunting and almost impossible.

It doesn’t have to be that hard. These 3 simple ways can help you get started:

  1. Do less. Instead of focusing on 10 different social networks at a time, hone in on only a few (Facebook and Yelp are good places to start).
  2. Automate. There are hundreds of tools designed to help you manage social media. Buffer is one example that allows you to schedule and publish large quantities of updates to multiple social media channels.
  3. Be lazy. Instead of reaching out to others one on one, put people in contact with you by creating content for large media publications, providing your expertise by donating time (be sure to post about/record it), and by using money to create helpful online tools for patients to utilize and share.

By matching up the time and effort you are putting into each of these points – by simply monitoring basic metrics like the number of reviews, website traffic, and engagement – you will be able to justify the time and energy it takes (keeping in mind that results won’t happen overnight).

Through the rapidly increasing popularity of social media and other technological advancements, prospective patients are shopping around more than ever before.

Getting consumers’ attention, building trust, and retaining patients (otherwise known as marketing) is vital to the survival of your practice. And so are developing the skills that are necessary in carrying out these steps successfully.



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