Two years ago, I was due for a wisdom tooth extraction surgery. Like many people would do, a couple of days prior to the surgery, I looked up some dental forums to know more about the procedure and how much it would hurt. The picture I got was pretty fearful and I ended up even more scared. My dentist informed me that these forums usually talk about the most extreme cases and hence other patients get scared.
As it turned out, he was right. I then realised how much difference proper online medical intervention would have made. I would’ve been more relaxed for the surgery.
Social media listening and engagement in the Indian Healthcare Industry is still at a nascent stage. Pharmaceutical and healthcare companies have a tremendous opportunity to capitalise on this medium to listen into online conversations across stakeholders- patients, medical practitioners, Healthcare Influencers and competitors.
Four ways in which the healthcare community uses social media to engage:
- Patients seeking information and second opinions: Patients, their family members and friends research medical forums and blogs to get more information about ailments, best procedures, best hospitals and even second opinions. Experiences and advice posted by past patients would be a key reference material here.
- Patients posting daily records: Certain websites allow patients to record their daily health progress and pills intake.
- Physician-to-patient conversations: Medical practitioners giving online consultation and prescriptions.
- Recommendations by brand advocates/healthcare influencers: Identification of which brand is popular amongst this set of stakeholders, who have a power to influence opinion online.
Five ways in which the healthcare companies can use social media to listen:
- Spot trends: Curation, segmentation and analysis of online conversations related to ‘illness’ and ‘wellness’ can help draw meaningful insights, connect dots, spot trends and customer needs, and thus help identify the next product that should be launched by the healthcare companies.
- Environment mapping: While it is important to monitor what people are saying about your products, it is equally imperative for brands to listen into conversations about competitor brands and their products. Proactive listening about the pharma environment would be incomplete if conversations about the other players in the field were to be ignored.
- Crisis preparedness: News practically breaks on Twitter and many people are using this medium to communicate with each other even during epidemics – Hurricane Sandy or a flu breakout. Being tuned to these conversations can go a long way in assessing quality of care in a region, leveraging opportunities and planning inventory.
- Influencer mapping to drive advocacy: Identifying users/organisations that are helping spread positive word of mouth for your brand and products can be very beneficial in the pharmaceutical domain.
- Identifying detractors: Once identified, the issues of these brand detractors can be taken offline and their queries can be addressed.
A quick conversation audit on Twitter for Dec, 2012 yielded 3,837 mentions of the word ‘Diabetes’.
Some hospitals and medical practitioners share useful tips and information about diabetes. These can be leveraged to endorse/ mention your products:
While on the other hand there are patients seeking help:
These conversations if curated, segmented and analysed can help draw meaningful insights, connect dots, spot trends and thus help identify the next product that should be launched by the healthcare companies.
What other ways can the healthcare companies leverage listening for new product development? Do share your thoughts.
Disclaimer: Views of authors are personal and do not represent the views of Blogworks, or any of its clients.