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Social Platforms – A Remedy for Patient Apathy Part 2 on Inside Healthcare

Published on October 2, 2012    by Jock Putney on Inside Healthcare Blog

This is part 2 of this article.  To read part 1, please click here.

It’s easy to understand why social platforms are highly attractive to patients. Easily accessing information or building a dynamic, online relationship with a doctor is far more convenient than visiting a medical office or scouring the Internet for supplemental information. These communities can become even more effective when they are provider-led. Patients know that information is coming from a trusted source and are therefore more likely to use it. “One-third of consumers … would be comfortable having their social media conversations monitored if that data could help them identify ways to improve their health or better coordinate care.” Because a provider-led social platform provides both ease of use and information from a trusted source, patients are more likely to become engaged in their own care which can result in improved outcomes and reduced costs.

The group nature of social platforms is another factor that makes these solutions especially powerful in healthcare scenarios. Patients with similar conditions gain the opportunity to interact with and learn from one another. And it is widely known that people participating in peer groups often fare better than those who go it alone. For instance, according to one study on diabetes support groups, “The participants in the peer-led group also reported less stress, greater family involvement, and better glycemic control than the patients who received no intervention.”

These social platforms can significantly enhance patient outcomes; however there are also significant benefits for providers. Two thirds of Medicare expenditures are for the 9.5 million beneficiaries who have five or more chronic conditions. The collective environment enabled by social platforms empowers physicians to provide high-quality care to these chronically ill patients – especially those with multiple ailments. Physicians can easily and effectively deliver extensive patient education and self-management instruction. Additionally, providers can control what patients see – providing the right information at the right time and ensuring patients remain focused on their personal health issues.

The benefits both patients and providers can gain from a social platform are significant and healthcare institutions should not pigeonhole social networks as merely frivolous. The sharp increase in chronic disease and spiraling healthcare costs are serious problems demanding dynamic solutions. Healthcare providers interested in considering a social platform should assess solutions based on a number of criteria, chief among them security and privacy. In order to be effective, social platforms must provide users with the confidence that their data is private and the system they are using cannot be compromised. In addition, the policies of the companies providing the technology should guarantee that personally identifiable data will not be sold to third parties. Healthcare organizations must also ensure social network solutions feature a simple user interface so patients can maintain focus on their health.

Additionally, in order for social platforms to be truly effective, they must be provider-led, ensuring patients receive and respond to timely, actionable and appropriate information. Many may view patients as apathetic. However, as industry statistics prove, they are becoming increasingly tech savvy and their demand for online health information is exploding. Combine these trends with the immediate need to improve patient outcomes and reduce healthcare costs and a dynamic social platform that seamlessly connects providers and patients becomes a no-brainer.

Article written by Jock Putney, CEO of WellFX and Published on October 2, 2012    by Jamie Morgan on Inside Healthcare Blog