Today we attended two panels titled: Patients/caregivers on Facebook: establishing boundaries without barriers and Minority report: social media for decreasing health disparities. Each of the panels looked at different aspects of how patients are connecting with the health care industry through English social media vehicles.
Spanish-language messaging is key to engaging the U.S. Hispanic community when it comes to their health. Most U.S. Hispanics receive information about health care from traditional media and Internet (83 percent), from a doctor (71 percent) or from family, friends, churches and community groups (70 percent), according to a Pew Study on Hispanics and health care.Yet still, 66 percent of English-speaking and 43 percent of Spanish-speaking U.S. Hispanics have greater problems communicating with their doctors than other demographics. More than ever it is essential for the health care industry to leverage bilingual social media tools to establish better communication with the U.S. Hispanic community.
U.S. Hispanics are over-indexing the general public when using social media channels. According to online marketing company BIG Research, Hispanics use Facebook faster than non-Hispanics with 54.2 percent of Hispanics online regularly using Facebook versus African Americans at 47.7 percent and non-Hispanics whites at 43 percent. With Hispanics actively engaging in conversation via social media channels, new challenges of candid brand or product conversations for health care practitioners and professionals are arising within online communities. Unfortunately, legal, ethical and practical issues with health care companies spring up when patients/clients seek to spread the conversation through certain outlets. For example, should health care companies provide a response to a question or avoid the situation and hope that the issue resolves itself?
Engaging Hispanics in social media is highly recommended as the community is already involved and sharing their experiences with each other on topics such as health, nutrition and well-being. In some cases, Hispanics are interested in creating new content through health blogs due to lack of effective communication from their health care professionals. The current inactivity from the health care industry within the social media space has to be increased into a strong online presence within the Hispanic population. The Hispanic community conversations through social media provide a unique opportunity to educate the community.
In the mainstream world, certain foundations have noticed the importance of Hispanics in social media and are taking action. For example, the Connecticut Health Foundation was provided as a best practice within the panel after working with the Society for New Communications Research for a grant focused on inspiring participants to engage in online conversations related to health disparities elimination. As a result, an advisory board was created to educate on social media usage, build a strategy and included a community manager to monitor the conversations being said and respond when needed.
Health care companies who host a open forum where Hispanics can share thoughts, values and ideas will be a splitting factor which will separate the company from the rest.
Suggested best practices from the panel:
- Establish a partnership with top Spanish-language health care websites and blogs, leveraging Spanish-speaking health care practitioners and professionals
- Frame relevant Spanish-language messaging
- Establish a strong Spanish-language social media strategy and measurements to guide online conversations after launch
Health care professionals who leverage social media tools to establish relationships with the U.S. Hispanic market will improve communication between the U.S. Hispanic patient and their doctor in addition to guiding the patient to make healthier behavioral changes.