Social media has impact on consumer health care

December 21, 2015By Future of Retail, Views

As seen in "My Turn" in Chain Drug Review, October 26, 2015

By Megan Moyer 

Editor’s note: Social media is the fourth topic in a six-part series exploring technology and how it helps consumers manage their health and wellness.  Additional subjects in the series include the user experience, taxonomy, the power of images, mobile health and wearable technology.

There are many social media channels, and personal experiences with them vary based on age, interests, degree of technological savviness and more. Depending on one’s interests or information being sought, there are likely a variety of ways to participate or find others online that can relate.

Online communities can be a great source for support, education, connection and growth.  When trust and respect are established, the community becomes a more reliable source.  What does all of this mean in the world of consumer health care at retail? Social media outlets can be an important part of an individuals’ personal health care continuum — the resources in their circle that help them promote health and wellness, from diagnosis to referrals and recommendations, to dispensing, counseling and care.

Let’s go back to the two examples we’ve used throughout this series — the Rileys, a Baby Boomer couple, and Monica, a Millennial — for a look at how they use social media to manage their own health and wellness.

The Rileys aren’t terribly technology savvy, but they do try to make the most of the user-friendly resources available online. Mrs. Riley and her husband both suffer from arthritis, and Mrs. Riley uses social media to connect with health care providers, associations that advocate for arthritis sufferers and others that are striving to effectively manage their condition. She frequently visits the WebMD  Rheumatoid Arthritis Community when she has a question and needs a quick answer; she monitors the Arthritis Foundation’s Facebook page for tips, information and education; and she joined a couple of forums that she found through to connect with those living with arthritis and share experiences.

Monica is an avid runner who is interested in cooking healthy meals for herself. She was thrilled to discover her local grocery chain has a Pinterest page with a variety of recipes that she can reference for ideas and when she is creating her shopping list. She also participates in an online community for runners through a website she found that features blogs on a variety of topics related to the sport (conditioning, nutrition, and recovery). This community has become a daily touch point for Monica to share and continue learning.

Where might retailers fit into this equation? To start, think of how your store could bring value as a resource to consumers who are actively trying to manage their own health and wellness, and possibly that of their family members. If your pharmacy is already a trusted partner in their health care, maximize that trust and make sure you’re not only viewed as a resource when they’re in your brick-and-mortar locations but also when they are online in need of help, support, or answers.

CVS/pharmacy’s website offers a great example. CVS/pharmacy®, an exclusive drug store Partner for Better LivingSM with the Arthritis Foundation, has a good deal of content from the Arthritis Foundation’s website linked directly on its site, from understanding the condition to managing pain. One element that may enhance this site even further, however, is building CVS’ own stake in helping arthritis sufferers beyond simply offering them products. It makes sense, of course, that CVS would link to information from the experts in arthritis and mine their vast resources to provide patients with current, accurate facts and insights. But without any content that comes directly from CVS presented on the page, other than applicable  product categories, CVS may be limiting its role as a partner in patients’ management of their condition and offer little differentiation from other drug stores.

Walgreens utilizes several social media channels. Facebook posts promote products and also points patients to more facts, tips, and information about management or treatment of conditions on their Tumblr page. Pinterest pins include craft projects and beauty guides. Tweets appear to follow a pattern similar to the Facebook posts.

Consider that on August 27, 2015, more than 1 billion people used Facebook in a single day for the first time in its history. This fact helps demonstrate how social media has become increasingly important among all age groups, and it is often used as they search for ways to better manage their health, seek reliable information related to their condition and connect with others facing similar health needs. Getting creative with participation on various outlets is the way to stand out from competitors, and projecting that same level of care that is felt in stores online through offering valuable, helpful facts and information is the key to building relationships that last.

The other articles in this series that examine how consumers are using technology to manage their health and wellness are: Omnichannel experience must be consistent; Taxonomy: Streamlining the online experience; What it takes to create product images that sell; Health information now captured by what you wear; and Mobile devices back drive for health, wellness.

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