With 2012 now in the history books and 2013 just a few days old, it’s only natural to look to the future and contemplate what’s to come. Much, of course, is unknown but one thing is already clear: When it comes to health care, social media is poised to inform every aspect of how patients conduct their preliminary research, who they trust and how they decide to choose one provider over another.
- 33% of consumers now use social media sites and online forums to research health-related matters
- 41% said social media would affect their choice of a doctor, hospital or medical facility
- 77% said they would share their experiences regarding a specific health care provider
Even more compelling, perhaps, is the fact that when respondents were asked whose health-related content they trusted, 46% of social media users said they trusted content posted by other patients they know — versus 60% for content from doctors. In those consumers’ minds, at least, the so-called “authority gap” is shrinking.
Don’t get us wrong. We remain unconditionally committed to the importance of professional expertise and especially the value of board certification. (Patients also place high value on board certification.) Nevertheless, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that your potential patients are increasingly turning to social media for advice, information and the kind of support that allows them to make aesthetic decisions with confidence.
If they don’t find your practice there, there’s a good chance they won’t find it at all.
The future is closer than you think
The numbers above will only take on more significance going forward. Simply put, when 80% of the next major demographic group to enter the marketplace say they share health information via social media and almost 90% say they trust the information they find there, doctors face a stark reality: Participate now and make the connections that promote future business or ignore the inevitable and become invisible.