In recent years, the concept of “checking in” at a restaurant or venue through social media sites like Foursquare or Facebook has become increasingly popular as more and more of the population adopts smartphones. These days, people use their mobile phones for just about everything – networking with others, shopping online, downloading music, looking up directions or recipes or instructions. People use social media to publicize their actions, situations, and involvements more easily than they have ever been able to in the past. As location-based services take off, how will it impact healthcare? Below is a quick recap of our webinar this week on location-based services for healthcare.
17% of cell phone owners have used their phone to look up health information, and 25% of Americans use social media as a health resource. As this trend increases, hospitals will want to take advantage of the opportunity to communicate with patients via social media and mobile channels.
Do sites like Foursquare disrupt the traditional balance of power between hospitals and patients?
Recently, many patients have started to publicly check-in at hospitals, which can lead to worry or excitement on the part of the patient’s friends. Encouraging the use of such location-based applications could disrupt the balance of power between hospitals and their patients. The ability to check in at and review a hospital provides the patient with more power and places more accountability on the physicians to run a smooth practice at a hospital that may now be under the public scrutiny of its social media-savvy clientele.
Another big concern is privacy: when a patient posts a status update about his or her condition at the hospital, questions are raised as to the legality of such an action. On the one hand, patients may update Facebook or Foursquare or Twitter with medical information that may be considered private and confidential by the doctor or hospital; on the other, doesn’t the patient have the right to share their health information if they so choose? Ultimately, hospitals can’t control what individuals say in updates or tweets or reviews, but as more information on this budding location-centered market is gathered, privacy regulations may be introduced to keep confidential what needs to stay private.
The future of social media and healthcare could bring a few interesting developments:
1) GPS tracking of on-call doctors could become the modern pager
There’s potential for non-invasive tracking applications to see where on-call doctors are in relation to the facility (which provides a more accurate estimate of when they’ll arrive to provide care).
2) Social media can be used to gain insight into the patient experience
If hospitals were to pay attention to reviews and tips on Yelp and Foursquare, they could use that data to get a better idea of what patients are really saying and thinking about the facility or its employees and thereby attempt to improve the patient experience accordingly.
When Foursquare users aren’t checking in, they might be posting “tips,” or short reviews about the place they’re visiting. Yelp is a site with a similar purpose that used to be confined to food and drink – now, people have begun to grade physicians, hospitals, and healthcare services. Because users are generally honest in their grading, helpful information and data can be gathered that could help to improve or benefit the hospital or practice in the future. For example, if many users on Yelp and Foursquare rate a hospital’s parking facilities as lacking, the hospital could use that information to fix their parking issue and make the hospital experience better for everyone.
3) Social media could be used to identify patient health trends
If a patient comes in complaining of heart distress, his doctor could reference the patient’s check-ins at different places (such as gyms, steakhouses, or fast food chains) to help form a better picture of the patient’s health behaviors.
With technology constantly improving and expanding, it’s up to other industries to stay relevant and keep up, and the healthcare industry could benefit greatly from active use of social media sites like Foursquare.