One-third of consumers are using Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites to seek medical information, discuss symptoms and express their opinions about doctors, drugs and health insurers, according to a new report.
These latest results from PwC’s Health Research Institute underscore the need for healthcare providers and insurance companies to engage more with consumers online since they are increasingly making medical decisions based on the information they find there. The stakes are likely to grow as millions of younger consumers comfortable with social media enter the insurance market for the first time under the federal healthcare law.
“Those medical providers and payers who are able to use social media are likely to do better in the marketplace as consumers make these decisions,” said John Edwards, a director in PwC’s healthcare strategy and business intelligence practice. “But our research shows that consumers’ expectations continue to outpace the ability of providers and payers to deliver.”
In the survey of 1,060 people in February, 45% of consumers said information found through social media would affect their decision to get a second medical opinion and 34% said it would affect their decision about taking a specific medication.
Consumers also have high expectations for responsiveness. The survey found that 72% said they would like assistance in scheduling doctor appointments through social media and nearly half of those said they would expect a response within a few hours.
Consumers were more likely to trust information posted by doctors and hospitals compared to insurers and drug companies, the survey found. Only 42% of respondents said they would trust information posted by insurers and 37% for a pharmaceutical company.
As expected, younger consumers were more comfortable sharing personal health details over social media. More than 80% of individuals 18 to 24 said they were likely to share health information through social media and nearly 90% said they would trust the information they found there.
In contrast, only 45% of consumers 45 to 64 said they were likely to share health information on social media.