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The importance of becoming a social business

In the last few years, it’s become increasingly important for healthcare organizations to create some sort of strategy that isn’t focused on social media methods for brand monitoring, but rather focused on becoming a successful social business, according to Andrew Dixon, senior vice president of marketing and operations at Igloo Software, a digital workplace software company.

Dixon said he considers social business an approach that seeks to create a more open and collaborative organization in order to increase productivity and better serve its customers – in this case, the patients.

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“Social media is about monitoring how your brand is being perceived in the marketplace,” he said. “This is social business. It’s modern tools brought into the business for communication and productivity enhancement, whether it be doctor-to-doctor, doctor-to-patient or researcher-to-researcher.”

According to Dixon, there are three important elements within all industries that need to “come together very tightly in order for a business to be successful, productive and innovative.” Those three elements are processes, information and people, he said.

“If you think about investments in technology over the last 20 years, there’ve been huge investments in processes, huge investments in information – like content management. But what about investments in technology when it comes to people?” said Dixon.

Dixon said that while social and online communities in the healthcare world have existed since the 1990s, such as early discussion boards and information sites, the industry is now finally seeing the “social evolution” move towards health networks, which are similar to the older healthcare communities of the past but they now include modern and social communication tools.

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“What you see now within many healthcare organizations is a community with very rich engagement and the ability to interact, exchange information and find experts,” he said. “That’s really what the landscape has become and how it’s evolved.”

He added that the rise of these new social networks in the industry has enabled different types of communities – including ones outside of the organization, like various patient communities – to come together in a private, secure and virtual place to share experiences or talk about innovative approaches. The use of intranets within organizations for communication and collaboration, and practitioner communities for connected practices, like the American Academy of Family Physicians’, have also become popular, he said.

Consumers are also increasingly using social media methods for viewing health information, Dixon said. He mentioned that according to a recent PwC study on consumers and social media, 42 percent of consumers use some form of social media for health-related consumer reviews, and 32 percent use social media to hear about friends or family health experiences.

Along with the increase in social media methods being used in healthcare, healthcare practitioners are also increasingly using their smartphones or tablets to access their social networks, Dixon added. According to a 2012 Manhattan Research study, 85 percent of U.S. physicians owned or used smartphones professionally last year.

“The increasing use of mobile technologies, social networks and cloud computing are trends that are powerhouses of their own but when they converge like this – that is what is driving this social evolution.”


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