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Facebook Fever Catches Doctors

07 January 2012
By Soumita Majumdar
Bangalore India

A recent study by Pew Internet and American Life Project, a research firm, done in US suggests that around 80% of internet users seek medical information online.

Keeping this in mind, hospitals and health professionals from the city are now using social networking sites as platforms to reach patients.

Be it information about a particular disease, treatment options and treatment facilities available in a particular centre or expert opinion on a case study, all these can be accessed now by logging in to the specific hospital’s page in Facebook.

A recent example could be a campaign on breast cancer awareness in Facebook that was run by Healthcare Global Enterprises Ltd (HCG). This campaign was such a huge success that it entered the Guinness Book of World Records for creating awareness on prevention, diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. The impact of social media garnered enough support that more than 8,500 people turned up for the event.

“New age communication like social media has moved to engaging people through networking sites like Facebook and blogs. This powerful new way of communication have created and empowered customer evangelists in ways that were practically impossible earlier,” said Dinesh Madhavan, director, marketing, HCG.

According to a study, 72% cancer patients sought information online often looking at care providers or treatment centres, he added.

It is through these social networking sites that patients have extended financial support, volunteers for blood donation, organ donors, etc, in the present time.

How do these sites work? HCG, for example has opened a Facebook page. Now, doctors from all HCG centres, specialists from other cancer centres globally and experts from pharmaceutical industries have all added themselves as friends on this page. Now, patients or caregivers can directly chat with the experts on this page or can leave a message with their query that will be answered by an expert.

Approximately in a week, around 10 new patients from India and abroad get in touch with the HCG through its Facebook page.

The Facebook page of Fortis Hospital has members that include the hospital’s doctors and staff, health professionals from other centres as well as patients. “We use several social networks including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube as a platform to generate community awareness about various activities such as campaigns, walkathons or even various medical breakthroughs by Fortis Hospital,” said Dilip Jose, Zonal Director, Fortis Hospital, Karnataka.

This apart, any acquisition, expansion plan accomplishment by the hospital gets a mention in these sites. The hospital also posts talks on various issues delivered by their experts on YouTube and pointers on various health trends such as IVF, obesity management by their experts on Facebook. “On various occasions, we keep posting links of various newspaper articles on complicated cases dwelt at Fortis Hospital, and we have always got good response. Patients or family members of patients with similar complications write back to us looking for the treatment options or the right doctor,” Jose said.

Not just hospitals, but doctors at their individual levels have also started interacting with patients at large by using social networking sites. Dr Kumareesh Krishnamurthy, senior consultant, ENT and head and neck, oncosurgery, Apollo Hospitals, is one such doctor from the city, who is very active on online social networks. “I use my blog and Facebook to showcase my skills and technicalities of surgeries I have done. I put complicated case studies of patients without revealing their identity on social networking sites. Also at times, I upload patient testimonials on YouTube with their consent,” he said.

These help the patients in two ways. “Firstly, I get queries from patients looking for opinions and solutions through emails on various complications. Secondly, after viewing the patient testimonials and briefs on complicated surgeries done by me, patients feel confident about the doctor,” added Dr Krishnamoorthy.

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