Improving Health and Efficiency With Strategic Social Media Use in Health Organizations: A Critical Review of the Status Quo

Improving Health and Efficiency With Strategic Social Media Use in Health Organizations: A Critical Review of the Status Quo

Gokhan Aydin
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2329-2.ch012
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The emergence of social networking systems as mainstream applications and an inherent element of daily life is a phenomenon observed throughout the world as the worldwide social media users exceeds 2.7 billion. Similar to other sectors, healthcare organizations have also started benefiting from social media in distinct ways such as collecting feedback, educating, communicating and supporting patients and citizens. Social networks can act as remarkable channels for healthcare providers, governmental institutions, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and others to educate, communicate to, listen, connect to and engage existing and potential customers, patients, physicians and healthcare professionals. Despite the various benefits offered, health institutions, health professionals and stakeholders are reluctant to utilize social media due to several barriers and lack of expertise. This chapter aims to provide a better understanding on the ways healthcare companies can utilize social networks in detail to overcome use barriers and obtain related benefits.
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Currently the Internet has become an important and integral part of daily life throughout the world. In line with decreasing cost of communication and rapidly growing population with access to the Internet, new opportunities have arisen, new economies have been devised and current ones have been transformed. Even small-sized organizations now have the ability to directly reach millions of individual citizens and potential customers. This ability to reach millions was only available through the use of intermediaries and was commonly a unique capability of larger, well-established institutions (Palmer & Koenig‐Lewis, 2009). The developments in the last decade regarding enabling technologies such as the Internet, communication technologies, Web 2.0 and social networking sites (SNS) have transformed the daily lives of billions of consumers and companies alike. Among the most significant developments, the emergence of SNS as mainstream applications is a phenomenon observed not only in developed countries but also globally. The estimated number of global users of social media have exceeded 2.7 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach to 2.95 billion in 2020 (Clement, 2018). On the other hand, the increase in number of people interacting with each other and companies and creating content themselves have led to an exponential increase of data available to institutions and consumers. It has become particularly difficult to process and evaluate all the data available to individuals and organizations alike to acquire relevant information. Web 2.0 technologies have been diffusing to the healthcare arena as well. Social media use in healthcare is becoming a significant issue in a variety of ways. Effective use of SNS can enable cost-effective healthcare professional (physician) - patient communication and exchange of relevant information and experience among patients. Moreover, it is possible for companies (e.g. pharmaceutical) to collect data from patients to explore new medical knowledge or confirm existing knowledge. Moreover, epidemic trend detection and education of citizens are promising areas that governmental bodies and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) can utilize via social networks to improve and sustain public health.

Despite all the benefits offered, health institutions, professionals and stakeholders are reluctant to utilize social media fully. There are several barriers and lack of expertise in the healthcare industry on effective social media use. This chapters aims to highlight the distinct ways social networking sites can be utilized to benefit all stakeholders of healthcare industry. The barriers that are hindering wider adoption of social media in healthcare organizations and recommendations for relevant healthcare institutions, professionals and governmental bodies are provided in the following pages of this chapter.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Web 2.0: Web technologies that facilitate the easy interaction between users and companies via two way communication, interactivity and sharing.

Online communities: Groups of online people that have common interests and get together in SNS and similar platforms to communicate, exchange ideas / experiences, work together and pursue their interests.

social networking sites: A group of internet-based applications built on the Web 2.0 technological foundations that enable creation and easy exchange of user generated content.

Crowdsourcing: The practice of obtaining input into a task by enlisting the services of a large number of people mainly via online channels such as the Internet and SNS.

Word of Mouth (WOM): All informal communications towards other users/consumers with regards to the usage, or characteristics of certain products / services and their sponsors /owners.

Use Barriers: The factors that affect to continuous use of a certain service or technology.

Health 2.0: The use of social networking sites and relevant technologies to promote collaboration between patients, their caregivers, health professionals, and other related stakeholders in health.

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