How Online Communities Are Transforming Patient Communication

Here at Jennings we view our interns as equal members of the team. In addition to learning (and teaching us!) about social media, they learn about the trends in the healthcare industry and how to best communicate with various audiences. From time to time, we’ll feature guest blog posts by Jennings interns who will write about the areas of healthcare marketing and communication that have piqued their interest.

By: Alicia Tapp, Guest Contributor

Support groupAs technology continues to advance, an increasing number of e-Patients are taking to the web to seek answers to their medical concerns and connect with people who have similar illnesses. Online patient communities have positively impacted patient care and are continually attracting new members. For example, Inspire.com, one of the leading online communities, has over 400,000 registered members.

In addition to their growth and popularity, online support groups offer ease and accessibility, which cannot be guaranteed in traditional support communities. Think about the typical support group. You might meet once a week in a group member’s home or at another location, but what if you need advice or support outside the regular meeting hours? What if you want to connect with a group, but live too far away from the group’s meeting location? What if you’re feeling too sick to travel to the group? These common concerns can be reduced or eliminated by using online patient support groups.  With 24/7 operation, the web allows you to connect with members at any time, from any location, with the ease that blogs and social media sites offer.

For example, the Breast Cancer Social Media (BCSM) Community (co-chaired by Deanna Attai, MD, Alicia Staley, and Jody Schoge) connects thousands of breast-cancer patients from across the globe. The Twitter chat was the first cancer-related chat specifically focused on breast cancer. The weekly hour-long conversation begins on Monday’s at 9 pm Eastern, but members can seek advice anytime during the week by sending out a tweet using the #BCSM hashtag. By eliminating geographic barriers, breast-cancer patients can quickly connect to members sharing their concerns – all on a virtual platform.

The BCSM community has also encouraged members to seek medical help when necessary. According to Dr. Attai, the discussions can lead some reluctant members to “just pick up the phone” and seek medical attention.

Without communities like BCSM or Inspire.com, patients would not have nearly as much accessibility to connect with other.

Are you part of any online communities? Do you know someone who has benefited from online interaction with other patients? How has it impacted their care or morale? We want to hear!

Kate Gillmer

Kate is our social media connoisseur here at Jennings, helping manage the social media efforts (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, blogs) for many of our healthcare clients. If you want to know the pros and cons of HootSuite versus Sprout Social, Kate can tell you.

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