Magazine article CRM Magazine

A Prescription for Social Media: One Provider Shows How to Join Consumers in Social Networks without Compromising a Secure Relationship

Magazine article CRM Magazine

A Prescription for Social Media: One Provider Shows How to Join Consumers in Social Networks without Compromising a Secure Relationship

Article excerpt

According to an April 2010 study conducted by the marketing firm Epsilon, 40 percent of online consumers turn to social media for health information. Separate research by digital marketing company iCrossing shows that, within a 12-month span, 59 percent of adults searched online for health-and-wellness advice, and 55 percent of adults sought answers from doctors. The rise of social media has the healthcare industry stuck between a rock and a hard place. Consumers actively research--and converse about--healthcare topics on the social Web. Dangerously absent from most of those conversations, however, has been the healthcare provider, the traditional source of those answers and still the source of most medical treatment.

Online portals such as WebMD and Yahoo! Health have earned praise for advancing Health 2.0 and providing consumers with interactive (and reliable) health-oriented content. Traditional healthcare providers have largely failed to compete due to privacy restrictions, a lack of resources, and uncertainty over where to begin. One company, however, is carving out a social presence--without compromising its privacy standards or its reputation as a trusted healthcare advisor.

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Cleveland Clinic, one of the largest hospitals in the country, not only actively maintains profiles on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn but also runs the Cleveland Clinic Online Health Chats, two online channels dedicated to providing consumers with professional-grade healthcare information. One chat is devoted to connecting consumers with live nurses. The other is a resource for people--whether or not they're Cleveland Clinic patients--to connect with a physician regarding a given healthcare topic.

The chats allow consumers to ask questions anonymously, gain information from a trusted source, and access archived conversations. Betsy Stovsky, who manages online communications for Cleveland Clinic's Heart and Vascular Institute, says the Web chats were a success as soon as they began in 2007. "It's been a great venue for people to ask questions and get to know the clinic a bit," she says. "But mostly to give people an opportunity to be educated semi-anonymously and to chat with a physician. …

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