The Digital Era Of Healthcare

I have said before that quoting numbers from studies endlessly and keep proving that we live in the era of social networks is pointless. After a while people can say: “Ok, we get it! A lot of us use Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc.” Even the role of online content and social engagement in healthcare don’t really need further proof to be taken seriously.

Despite all that I wanted to share this video below. First of all because it includes all of the most important data about social media use and how that effects healthcare and patient information. Secondly because I believe that for whatever reason the same facts presented in a fast pace video can grab people’s attention better than any results in written words.

To make it easier for viewers to follow, here are the key findings included in the video:

  • There are 2.08 billion internet users worldwide
  • That number increased 11% in the last year only
  • There are 476,213,935 internet users in Europe
  • There are over 156 million blogs online
  • Over 200 million people on Twitter sending out 40 billion tweets per year
  • Wikipedia has over 3.65 million articles that would take more than 123 years to read
  • Facebook has over 750 million users – if it were a country, it would be the third largest in the world after China and India
  • Every second someone joins LinkedIn
  • Youtube serves 1 billion videos everyday
  • Google logs 2 billion searches daily
  • Healthcare is the second most search for topic on Google
  • Healthcare is the third largest web activity across all generations
  • 85% of online Europeans turn to the internet and other technology for health and prescription information
  • In a survey of 4,000 physicians 88% said they used internet resources to search for professional information
  • 48% claimed to visit Wikipedia more than once a week compared to only 16% visiting BMJ online
  • 50% of patients discuss what they have found online with their doctors
  • Patients who visit a brand website are more likely to request a drug by name
  • 44% of physicians prescribe a requested drug
  • 49% of physicians will recommend a website to patients – 80% for disease or condition education and awareness, 62% for patient support, 56% for health or lifestyle change, 37% for drug and product specific information, 22% for online communities for patients with the same condition
  • 95% of physicians use handheld devices and smartphones to download applications and access medical information

(Source: Pharma Marketing: The Weekly Dose)

Social Media In The EU

Which country likes social media the most and where is it considered to be dangerous? The European Commission published a study about social media in different countries of the European Union. According to the data presented below internet users in Poland, Latvia, Slovakia and Hungary seem to be the most enthusiastic about social sites. For instance 80% of Hungarian internet users find these applications useful and exciting, while in Germany, France or Italy these percentages are a lot lower.

A research conducted in 2010 suggests that in some countries the declining popularity of social networking sites is in connection with the fear of misuse of personal data. The map below supports this assumption: countries with fewer people using social sites have a higher percentages of social networkers who don’t feel that their personal data is safe online. While in Hungary only 39% of users on social sites are concerned about data safety, in Germany a higher rate of social networkers worry about their personal data (58%).

It would be interesting to see how concern or the lack of fear influences the activity of internet users on social media sites. Would they be more careful with sharing information in Italy than in Poland? And if not, is it possible that the numbers represent bad experiences about security breaches?

(Source: The Economist)

How Social Is Too Social?

In a recent blog post on Bryan Vartabedian, MD raises an interesting question: “How many places can you live?” These days chances are the biggest part of your online activity happens on social media sites. You check Facebook and click on the Youtube videos shared by your friends (or by random people you accidentally have on Facebook) and after finding the video extremely funny/interesting/inspirational you decide to post it on Twitter.

Let’s just say you also blog and you would like to keep up with the comments of readers of your posts. You also keep reading about Google+ so you decide to join to see what all the fuss is about. Before you know it you spend long hours sitting in front of the computer trying to find your way out of the great mess of information. Then when you finally build up enough courage to tear yourself apart from the computer to leave your house, you turn to your smartphone. And the whole circle starts again.

Is this really the purpose of social media? To create addicted people staring at a screen all day? I don’t think so. Using social sites should be beneficial on a daily basis not result in digital mess around you. The real quality of this era is being selective. To be able to decide what information to pay attention to and what to ignore. This way we could organize the fine chaos we see online every day. Social media and more and more mobile applications are supposed to help us filter information and find out easier what is relevant, new and deserves attention.

With so many social platforms you have to make choices. One doesn’t have to use all the applications and social platforms out there. It is better to use a few effectively than to get lost in the social sphere. Especially if there is a lot at stake. Let’s just say you are a physician actively using social media. For a healthcare professional social media is a lot more than a fun way to spend time in the evening. In this case social media is a great tool with countless possibilities to connect with fellow doctors, get informed and stay relevant in the rapidly changing medical field. But social media is also a potential source of danger – for privacy (yours and patients’) and for reputation.

The possibilities given by social media are too big to pass on them. But that fact doesn’t make the pitfalls go away. That is why everyone has to decide: how social is too social? A social media presence is too much if it can’t be monitored and controlled. You can’t keep your eyes on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and comments, Youtube, Google+ and different online communities all the time. There is only 24 hours in a day. If you want to use social media effectively to connect with people you want to connect with, to access useful information that you want to access and if during the process you would like to monitor and control your online presence, you have to be selective. And decide for yourself how social is too social.


Be Careful With Pretty Infographics

Lately I came across a very confusing infographic about different age groups using social media and their online interactions. The infographic (see below) was put together nicely with big bright pictures, lots of numbers and colors. I was so amazed by the charts and design that I almost didn’t notice how confusing the published data was.

The article states that most online interaction takes place on the social web. No “Eureka” moment here, this is just stating the obvious since social networks are created for users to interact. You can’t really do that on a news site except from commenting. The chart shows the different age groups that connect and interact the most on these sites. And the data here is more surprising. The age group with the second lowest rate of interaction with only 9% is those between 18 and 24, compared to 25% of users between the age of 35 and 44 and 19% of internet users age 45 to 54. Even people in the age group of 55 to 64 seemed more active since 10% of them interacted online.

But then the article concluded that “Millennials, born between 1978 and 1994 (currently ages 16 and 32), were the first  generation to be “raised” on the internet and represent a substantial portion of internet users.” First of all this show that the data represented on the infographic is from 2010. And it looks like the conclusion is not at all in sync with the numbers. The highest rate of interactive internet users turned out to be between the ages of 35 and 54 and not 16 and 32. This is proved once again when the infographic provides data about the average age of a certain social network user. All platforms (except Bebo) show a higher average age than 32 – the average user of Facebook is 38, on Twitter is 39 and LinkedIn has the oldest average with age 44. So what is it again with the Millennials?

The infographic keeps focusing on the age group of 16 and 32 which would be still fine if it wasn’t about interacting online. And if the charts showed any significant or relevant results. The data shows that 75% of Millennials created a social networking profile. This says noting about the usage of these sites or the activity of the users. As well as stating that users in this age group spend an average 23 minutes online. That could cover any kind of online activity from reading the news or watching videos, none of which are interactive actions. The funniest part of the infographic is the chart about how often Millennials visit social networking sites. Besides the mixed up frequency options, the rate of users in all four answer groups are so close that the slight difference can hardly be seen as significant.

The data published on the infographic is vague, sometimes confusing and often contradictory. The reason behind this could be found in the list of sources. Or more so in the fact that there is a LIST of sources. Not that I can check these (the links are missing so the references can’t be found), but I think it is safe to assume that six different researches don’t use the same method, same sample of respondents. That’s one of the reasons you can’t use data that you collected from several studies to shape a unified infographic. Not even if it’s bright and colorful.

(Source: Community102)

The World Of An Offline Physician

There are more and more articles surfacing on physicians’ online presence and how doctors could become irrelevant with staying away from online platforms and social media. In a time when almost every patient comes to the office with diagnoses printed out from Google, when you have to consider providing patient health record online, when your colleagues get the latest news in medicine on their smartphones while you wait for the latest journal to be published – I don’t quite understand why anyone has to be convinced that online presence and being up-to-date with the latest mobile technologies are crucial.

But let’s get back to the examples. It is a well-known fact that patients Google their symptoms. They look for treatment options and find other people with similar conditions online. They connect and exchange information. It is also not hard to imagine how much false information could be published online. The accurate data could be misinterpreted, misplaced or in some cases accuracy is not there to begin with. Chances are that your patient is going to come to the office with numerous questions about what he/she read online. Some of them will be convinced that online information is sacred and always right on point. If you are not familiar with the medical information published online, how are you going to prove your point? How are you going to respond to the patient asking about a treatment that thousands of people blog about but you have never heard of.

How are you going to keep up with your colleagues when in your coffee break they talk about the newest medical application that allows them to look up drug interactions in a few seconds? How do you stay on top of your life long studying if only a fraction of the information is available to you because you refuse to add online content to your sources? How are you going to recommend easy to use medical applications to monitor health to your patients when you still can’t use the application store and never downloaded a health app?

How are you going to compete with other practices that connect with patients online. How are you going to keep up with doctors who have hundreds of followers and fans on Twitter and Facebook. How are you going to get hired when the other applicants have a detailed LinkedIn page and connected with their future boss online a long time ago.

I’m not saying you know less as a doctor without an online presence or a smartphone. I’m only saying that your knowledge can’t be used as effectively simply because you don’t use the channels that patients use. Your knowledge has to be communicated to benefit patients, therefore you have to go where patients are. They are surfing the net, using health apps and social media platforms to get the most valuable medical information. Also, you have to stay connected with your fellow physicians who more and more go online to stay informed and make their careers a successful one.


Social Media – Not Just Another Infographic

There’s always a new study about how many people use social media, how old they are, how much money they make, whether they are man or woman. Marketers tend to be obsessed with these kind of surveys. Especially if they come in the form of a colorful, well-designed infographic.

But do we ever dig deeper? Do we ever ask how the researchers know all this info? How do you keep track of the social media users and all their characteristics? And most importantly: is it the same looking at others Facebook pages as setting up your own profile?

Publishers of a new study describing the demographics of social media did indeed dig deeper. And I didn’t just write that because it sounds good repeating the letter “d”. They reviewed actual profiles to know more about the age, interests of social media users as well as the difference between several social sites’ popularity.

So what did they find? Facebook (not surprisingly) is still the leading social media site. Female users are more active on both Facebook and Twitter. LinkedIn and Facebook are most popular in the U.S., followed by Indonesia, India and the U.K. The most surprising finding to me was that social media users are not as young as you might think. The age groups between 30 and 64 are well represented on all social media sites.

See the infographic below:

(Source: AdvertisingAge)