How Social Media can Lead Healthcare Engagement

How Social Media can Lead Healthcare Engagement

Health problems such as Obesity and diabetes have recently hit the headlines in UK media. The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) confirms that the numbers are bleak with more than 371 million people living with diabetes presently and this is expected to rise to 552 million in less than 20 years’ time. More alarming is the term “Epidemic” being used by International Diabetes Federation as Global food inequality is seeing type 2 diabetes increase significantly in numbers of people who are malnourished or obese. By 2030 one in 10 adults will have diabetes brought on by climate change. The cost to the economy of treating diabetes is estimated at $465bn in direct health care costs which is a situation that is not sustainable.

Healthcare  diabetes

In the UK around £9.8bn was spent by the NHS on diabetes last year, and spending on the condition has been rising steadily in recent years and is expected to reach almost £17bn by 2035. The government has acknowledged the NHS needs to do better with regard to treating and preventing diabetes. Fuel poverty is another health concern that local councils are looking to combat with Ministers saying the Green Deal, to run in England, Wales and Scotland, will help thousands “stay warm for less”. A family who spends more than 10% of their income a month on energy costs is said to be living in fuel poverty. With the current economic climate putting more pressure on household budgets, fuel poverty is a stark reality. In fact last year it was reported that some 25,000 people died due to the cold weather with pensioners and low income families at risk. There is actually help being provided but unfortunately many people do not know that help is available.

Barriers to Healthcare Communication and Engagement


There are many barriers to healthcare engagement and achieving positive health outcomes can only be realised if the messages are being communicated across the right communication channels. Current barriers that the healthcare industry is currently facing when communicating with the public on healthcare related matters include;

  • Constant change in the healthcare industry meaning healthcare messages need to be conveyed quickly and effectively
  • Poor communication
  • Fragmented health care Industry with many healthcare providers working independently rather than together to achieve positive health outcomes
  • More people self diagnosing themselves online. This means if you are not providing the right information, they will try and it themselves.
  • Engagement and communication with local healthcare providers
  • Engagement with the public, people at risk and target audience
  • Communication with children and the youth of today. There is overwhelming evidence that important healthcare messages are not reaching the younger generation because the media channels they engage with are not being used.
  • Consumer reach of healthcare campaigns is a growing challenge
  • Communicating with vulnerable groups
  • Delivery of campaigns that have a clear focus on young people as well as adults
  • Hard to reach groups such as pensioners
  • Measuring the engagement and reach of healthcare campaign


The government is leading a major drive to improve health outcomes, shifting power to local communities, enabling them to improve health throughout people’s lives, reduce inequalities and focus on the needs of the local population. The commissioning of health and well being boards will be tasked with improving positive health outcomes at a local level. Engagement with local providers will be vital if the health boards are to deliver their goals and objectives.

Investing in prevention through educating people on the dangers and risks to their health if they don’t eat healthy and exercise regularly will have a more significant impact of improving the health and well being of the UK in the years ahead. The cost to the NHS is treating conditions such as diabetes and obesity is not sustainable.

fast fooddiabetes

Engaging and reaching people is a constant challenge for healthcare organisations. The current health crisis affecting the UK highlights that present communication efforts are not achieving the desired effect. With conditions such as diabetes and obesity growing at an alarming rate and advertising campaigns not channeling the communication channels that children are using, engagement is a real challenge for healthcare organisations. It is necessary for healthcare organisations to explore better and more innovative ways to engage the population.

“Social networks and search engines are “the starting point of communication for many people who are seeking advice, ideas, information and answers”

“Pope Benedict XVI”

How we absorb information today

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We live in an ever-changing digital world where from an early age we are online searching the web, communicating with each other through social media and online forums and sharing information with our friends, family, work colleagues or complete strangers. Social media has revolutionised the way in which people now communicate with each other. In 2010 the average person was a fan of 5 Face Book Pages; today they are a fan of 40 pages!

“The average person has 170 friends on Face Book”

The channels people use to absorb information has changed greatly, we have high expectations of how we want information provided to us. We are now interested in what other people think and we will be willing to share information of interest with our online communities. With the phenomenal rise of social media, being part of a community is important to us. Social media channels are where people are now communicating. We are more likely to be receptive to information that is shared through our community than a local advert in the paper. Social media has taken engagement to another level and the biggest brands leverage social media to great success building global online communities full of brand advocates that engage and share information with them and for them. The viral nature of social media means information can be shared in seconds with a much wider audience. The Vatican has recently embraced social media quoting that “Face book and Twitter aren’t a virtual world they can ignore, but rather a very real world they must engage if they want to spread the faith to the next generation”


Why Social Media is essential to communicating with Children

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“Normal engagement avenues used by healthcare organisations are not used by children”

It is important that healthcare messages have a real presence in this environment. If people are now spending so much time engaging through social media, it is important that healthcare organisations have a strong presence in these communities. More people especially the young are spending increasing amounts of time in social media chat rooms. Normal engagement avenues used by healthcare organisations are not used by children, they don’t read newspapers or listen to the radio, they skip adverts and they watch on demand TV. They communicate through social media platforms such as Face Book, You Tube and Twitter spending increasing amounts of time online. Preventing poor health is about educating the young. Children are the future healthcare problems and if reach and engagement is to be successful then it necessary for health care messages to be ever present in the communities.


How social media is changing the face of healthcare engagement

Though there are still some healthcare organisations failing to utilise digital media channels for reaching and communicating with their target audiences, there are many healthcare institutions and organisations leading the way in healthcare engagement and it will simply be sooner rather than later that social media becomes the primary engagement channel. Social media marketing is reshaping the nature and speed of how healthcare organisations are now interacting with their consumers. The inclusion of social media can help the healthcare industry to take a more active, engaged role in managing individuals’ health.

Social media and other digital platforms have had a dramatic impact on how people manage their health allowing them to research a particular illness, condition or join a support group to share experiences.

social media engagement

Social media platforms have changed the way healthcare organisations now reach and engage with their patients and target audience allowing one to one or many too many communication at a phenomenal speed. Unlike many other industries, the health industry has been slow to embrace social media, but is beginning to see the benefits. Expensive campaigns have failed simply because the media channels being used are not being engaged by the target audience. People of all ages are now online and in social media chartrooms. Smart phones and tablets have amplified the facilitation of instantaneous communication with people in the house next door or half way across the globe. As a viral platform, social media can share messages and information with millions of people in seconds. Health care organisations are leading massive communities to deliver positive health outcomes.

“If you want to connect with people and be part of their community, you need to go where the community is.”

Ed Bennett, University of Maryland Medical Center

How people are using social media for healthcare related matters

A consumer survey provided by the PwC’s Health Research Institute highlighted how social media was currently being used by the public for health related matters.

  • 42% of consumers have used social media to access health-related consumer Reviews (e.g. of treatments or physicians).
  • Nearly 30% have supported a health cause,
  • 25% have posted about their health experience
  • 20% have joined a health forum or community.
  • More than 80% of individuals ages 18–24 would be likely to share health information through social media.
  • 90% of individuals would engage in health activities or trust information found via social media.
  • Less than half (45%) of individuals ages 45–64 would be likely to share via social media, while 56% would be likely to engage in health activities.
  • Consumers surveyed said they 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.
  • 45% of consumers said information found via social media would affect their decisions to seek a second opinion. More than 40% of respondents reported that information found via social media would affect the way they coped with a chronic condition or their approach to diet and exercise.

(Health Research Institute April 2012)

Social media can help measure Reach and Engagement

The success of any heath campaign will be based on the reach and engagement that that the campaign delivers. It would appear that one challenge that present health campaigns face is how to measure engagement, reach and ultimately success. It can be hard to quantify the success of TV, Radio adverts and Newspaper ads with no real process to measure engagement. It can be a case of hit and hope with traditional advertising channels as there may be no real way of knowing if it really got people to engage. Key questions that any healthcare organisation will surely need to answer will include;

  • How are healthcare campaigns currently measuring the success of  engagement
  • How many people did a particular healthcare campaign reach
  • How do healthcare organisations measure the success of a campaign
  • How do they lead engagementHow do they measure the success of engagement and reach?
  • Is reaction to engagement proactive

Social media platforms are collecting this type of data right now and allowing health organisations to lead communities in achieving better positive health outcomes.

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Social Media Reach

Reach through social media is measurable meaning you can see how many people have joined your community. Through the millions of digital communities online, it is possible to reach more targeted people. It can be very easy to build relationships with other online communities and share information that interests them helping drive new visitors to your community whilst increasing your reach. Consider that there are over one million bogs dedicated to diabetes where millions of discussions are taking place daily. The viral nature of social media means that your audience reach can grow rapidly in a short space of time.

fan page


  • The diabetes awareness fan page gained 37,000 followers in just 27 days.
  • Consider that the average person has 170 friends on Face Book and when they share a particular post, this is automatically visible to their friends
  • Possible Reach could be 37,000 x 170 followers if every new community member was to share information.

Health Organisations can reach more people through social media

fan page

Social Media Engagement

Achieving positive health outcomes is about engagement. It is essential that health organisations communicate with the audience in the right way. If you want people to engage then you need to post them something. A successful social media campaign that supports a health related matter will be driven by the content provided.  Healthcare messages can provide valuable information; they can shock, humour and even pull on their heart strings. Whether running polls, games, providing apps, videos, statistics or running surveys, they main objective is always the same, to get people to engage.

Social media is much about building online communities as it is about getting people to engage with information you are providing. Healthcare organisations that are achieving positive health outcomes are leading communities through content and engagement. They are getting their followers to pass on this information to other people who may need it whilst reaching a much wider audience in the process. They are being championed by brand advocates who are active in their communities daily and are sharing their messages with their communities.

Great examples of Health Care Engagement

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A this post received 13,863 likes, was shared 12,461 times and received 472 comments in just 12 hours!

Call To Action – directing them to a community page where people share their stories of hope and inspiration

health engagement

How Social Media can help with Healthcare Engagement

Social Media can help Unite, Build, Develop, Grow and most importantly Lead online communities that share the same common goals of improving overall health and well being outcomes. As a communication platform, healthcare organisations are delivering health messages to far wider audiences. Targeting the younger generation and having a real presence in these online communities, social media is changing the nature of health related interactions with great success.