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Importance of Social Media for Healthcare in India

New: Social Media Training for Doctors in India (Online & Offline)

It’s a fact that social media is an integral part of people’s lives! And People today, are very opinionated and brands should be prepared to deal with it. With technology empowering people to share their views, opinions, and get solutions at the touch of the button. It is important for every brand/ industry to have a social media strategy, more so for a healthcare industry that works so closely with people. It is one of the very few industries which need to emotionally connect with their consumers.

Imagine a patient tweeting about your service or treatment he received by your brand? Or talking about a doctor in a public forum? A huge number of people are scouring the internet, social media platform looking for information like special services, medications, treatments, reviews, etc.…the list is endless. Whatever they experience is out on social media for others to see, refer or even develop an opinion!

Have a look at some statistics below which will tell how people today use the internet for the healthcare industry.

A research in 2011 by Max Bupa has found that

  • More than 8 in 10 people (81%) around the globe who have the internet use it to search for advice about their health, medicines, or medical conditions.
  • One-third Indians (39 %) go online for health information. The percentage of people using the internet for finding health solutions in other emerging nations are Russia (39 %), China (32 %), Brazil (29 %) and Mexico (27 %).
  • The primary use of the internet for health purposes is finding information about medicines (68 % of respondents) in all countries. Other uses include searching for information to make a self-diagnosis (46 %) and seeking other patients’ experiences (39 %).
  • 18 % of respondents use social networking sites to find out about healthcare issues.

As per getreferralmd.com, it states:

  • 41% of people said social media would affect their choice of a specific doctor, hospital, or medical facility
  • 30% of adults are likely to share information about their health on social media sites with other patients, 47% with doctors, 43% with hospitals, 38% with a health insurance company and 32% with a drug company
  • 90% of respondents from 18 to 24 years of age said they would trust medical information shared by others on their social media networks.

This is why it is imperative for healthcare brands to be on social media to educate and address their consumers’ needs. Most importantly being on social media makes you accessible when the consumer needs you! It gives you a chance to show how receptive you are towards their needs.

Abhikesh’s Dasgupta, Manager Brand & Marketing (South & West), Fortis Healthcare Ltd says “Today, healthcare marketing is considered to be a multidisciplinary area of public health medicine, and since it combines traditional marketing theories and principles with science-based strategies, it requires an ever-innovative approach. The goal of healthcare marketing is disease prevention, health promotion, and health protection, as opposed to traditional marketing that aims only to increase the value of a company or its merchandise. Therefore, it is safe to say, that Social Media marketing has evolved to fit into healthcare, just as social networking has evolved to fit into a person’s basic everyday activities. Hence, social networking can no longer be an optional tool for healthcare marketing, if it is to continue to be of relevance.” He goes on to say” In present times, a healthcare organization such as ours, should embrace and incorporate the booming technology that is social media, so that the two can grow together and in peace. In doing so, healthcare marketing will not only lean closer towards achieving its unique goals, but also establish itself as a branch of marketing that is here to stay for years to come”

For these states some strong reasons. He mentions Social Media opens opportunities for the Healthcare industry because of various reasons. It is a dynamic medium that allows efficient ways to address quality issues that would otherwise take days and months. One can provide updates that can be given and get almost instantaneous interactions from the public. Mainly he says “For generations, the healthcare industry has depended on word of mouth as its most enduring branding tool. Used correctly, social media does just that, in an exponentially augmented manner, leading to brand equity index growth.”

Getting started and leveraging Social Media Strategy

There are certain things that one needs to keep in mind while starting on a social media strategy.

STEP 1: There are chances that you already have a social media presence. If you already have a presence make sure you evaluate how you are doing on that platform in comparison to your competition. This will create a foundation of what goals you are going to set.

If you don’t have a presence, then it’s time you created it. Where can you be present? Facebook Pages/ groups, Twitter Handle, Linkedin Pages, and of course your own domain – the website! These are a few platforms that you can be on. Identify which all platforms you would want to be on.

STEP 2: Is creating a strategy. A well thought through social media strategy can play a crucial part in Educating and Engaging with the audience, which results in building the most important aspect of this industry TRUST!!

To ensure this you should always have clear goals. Understand the purpose of your organization’s social media strategy. ‘Creating awareness, promoting product/services, sharing information, gaining consumer insight, etc…’

Next is your Content Strategy. What type of content, when & where are you put out? That is creating a content calendar.

STEP 3: Analysis! One has to constantly analyze the performance of their campaigns, posts, blogs, interactions, etc. This helps in evaluating if you are able to achieve your goals and how successful you are at it. Example: ‘If a certain response, the post is not well received, why? Is the content not relevant or has the response to queries unsatisfactory? What type of content is getting good engagement? Can it be replicated on another post?’ ‘Where is the audience coming from?’ ‘Can something give them a better experience?’

Analytics can help answer such questions and give insights to the marketers to develop & refine strategies.

STEP 4: There are other things one must keep in mind while creating a strategy especially in this industry:

  • Reply: The Healthcare industry predominately deals with people! People with opinions, views, sentiments, and most of the time they want to be heard. Reciprocate to them. Replying to your audience in a reasonable period of time helps them know that you are there for them and care about their problems. Interacting with people also gives your brand a human touch.
  • Listen: It’s important to listen to what your audience is talking about you as well as in general if they are looking out for any particular information. Try and be the first one to provide the information your audience is looking for. Also, keep an eye on what your competition is doing. This will help you build a better strategy.
  • Consistency: Be consistent in your approach. Ensure you put out relevant and useful content across platforms at periodic intervals to increase engagement with your brand. Reply to all audience reaching out to you unbiasedly. Keep the timing and tone of the message similar throughout.

But, to ensure you are able to do all of the above, you need a have trained team. You can arm your current team with training programs to develop and execute digital strategies.

Ensure understand a few nitty-gritty for conducting training. Identify the members that need training. Who will handle what? SEO, SEM, Social Media, Blogging, etc are different aspects that are needed to be given attention to. This will help identify who needs what kind of training. Ensure your training like has a specific objective. What is it that you want to achieve at the end of the training? Create a balance of conceptual as well as hands-on knowledge/ output.

At the end of the training, you should know how to create a strategy, engage with the audience, monitor & optimize the campaigns/ posts as well as how to analyze the performance & refine.

Apart from a trained team you also need a tech team that will support you with all the tech needs. They will help you understand the technological environment you work with and how to connect the digital platforms, etc.

I have stated below a few examples of how social media played a crucial part in saving people’s life

Parents Dave Cormier and Donnie Stewart were on a hike with their toddler daughter in Canada when they realized she had eaten berries they didn’t recognize. They posted a photo of the berry on Twitter and were able to seek help after a response helped them identify it. http://www.ibtimes.com/twitter-saves-lives-johannesburg-carjacking-victim-rescued-tweets-top-5-life-saving-social-media

Deborah Kogan’s 4-year old son had a strep infection, but when his face swelled up she was puzzled and put the pic on FB. Within 10 mins a friend called up urging her to take her son to the hospital immediately and that he had Kawasaki Disease. She was tempted to ignore this, but when 2 DOCTORS contacted her with the same thought, she rushed her son to the hospital and he was diagnosed with Kawasaki Disease!! (Source: http://www.wisebread.com/5-ways-social-media-saved-someones-life)

Gaurav Arora, a defense research scholar hailing from Delhi and working in Bangalore went missing during a hiking trip. He was trapped for almost 10 hours after he fell 300 feet down the mountain. He tries calling but did not have enough range for a call. What saved him and helped him getting rescued is pictures that he clicked and sent to his friend from the popular messaging app – WhatsApp. This picture sent by him helped police to trace him out. (http://www.indianweb2.com/2014/06/25/whatsapp-saves-life-bangalore-techie-trapped-mountain/)

If a healthcare brand has created FB groups/ communities, they can really address the queries and problems people face! People tag hospital, doctors with # to gain attention to their problems. This is where the hospital can jump into action and actually save lives.

Now take a look at a few social media initiatives taken up by the healthcare industry. Source: As per KPMG research done in 2011.

Organization Social media initiative Targeted outcome
Kaiser Permanente In September 2011, Kaiser Permanente Centre for Total Health introduced an official blog to explore and discuss new topics and issues facing the healthcare sector.

In March 2010, Kaiser Permanente implemented the Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect, an innovative health information system, in its 431 medical offices and 36 hospitals.

The blog looks to position itself as an innovative learning destination, where users and various experts, bloggers, thought leaders, and the media can discuss different healthcare-related issues.                                                                       The system facilitates easy and instant interaction between Kaiser Permanente professionals and members.
Mayo Clinic In July 2011, Mayo Clinic launched the Mayo Clinic online community, which shares content from various Mayo Clinic videos and blogs, and provides links to news articles about its research and treatment developments.

The community has no registration charges and features a discussion forum where members can easily interact with each other.


A social media centre was established in June 2010 to provide training to other hospitals on the use of social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.


The community is aimed at helping patients share their Mayo Clinic experiences and interact with other patients with similar medical ailments.


The centre aims to hold conferences, deliver workshops and provide training and consulting services on how hospitals can leverage social media to create better relationships with patients, achieve business goals and provide vital information regarding their products.


The Ontario Health Coalition


The Ontario Health Coalition, a Canadian healthcare community, recently announced plans to identify the top healthcare issues in Ontario by using a democratic social media campaign. The social media campaign will take place in three phases between June and September 2011.54


The campaign is aimed at reaching people across all classes through social media, to understand their healthcare issues and experiences.



You can’t underestimate the importance of social media in the Healthcare industry. This industry needs to embrace digital marketing




KPMG: https://www.kpmg.com/Global/en/IssuesAndInsights/ArticlesPublications/Issues-monitor-healthcare/Documents/im-healthcare-october-2011.pdf