Today, social media is the only place in our tangled web of difficult healthcare systems that many people can find what they’re looking for: living, breathing examples of good health outcomes.
One thing that has surprised me in my short tenure in healthcare marketing is how people get sick, and quickly become the data object in an EMR, EHR, Payer system. Among all these data points in the patient’s journey, often, they never know what a good health outcome really looks like. They aren’t sure what to say to a parent or spouse that articulates how they feel, or what the right conversation is to have with their doctor.
It turns out, getting healthier centers around knowing the right conversation to have, with the right person, at the right time, to make decisions about how to get to a healthy outcome – to be the hero at the end of the story that says, “Let me tell you how I got to feel this good.”
All of these valuable perspectives don’t just show up at your door, though. And in this problem space, healthcare and pharma brands have an increasingly crucial role to play: help people articulate their challenges and victories, and connect them to each other for help.
That’s where we turn to social data; not as the answer, but to help us get better at asking people better questions. These questions spark conversations between people to help get to better health in ways we would never be able to answer. The brands we work with have so much patient data, we can use social data to understand where people are talking most across their journey to wellness—and where they’re not.
Social data also gives us context to know how people want to represent their best, healthiest selves beyond their illness: in profile pictures, in likes, in connections.
So instead of thinking about social data as a whisper we “listen” to, or the ubiquitous magnifying glass search icon, I’d rather think of it as the archaeologist’s brush.
Yes, you will start with explicit mentions of a condition or a brand. But more importantly, you’ve found people. The data artifacts they leave in the open Web start to unearth patterns of how they want to get to better health on their own terms. With each query refinement, you’re uncovering new connections between people and the things that matter most in their lives.
In one case, using this method for a rare disease that affects only 30,000 U.S. patients, a Tumblr post received over 8,000 notes. In another post, this one on Facebook, 140,000 chronic illness sufferers shared an image that depicted the way they feel to reach almost 700,000 people.
In healthcare, social data helps us design for the most amazing serendipities between people, helping them have the right conversations to take the actions that make them healthier.