Debate over whether healthcare sector should use social media

Questions are being asked as to whether social media should be used by the healthcare sector as a marketing device, such as that integrated into NHS website design.

While many industries, such as fashion, travel, and beauty, routinely implement social media as part of their marketing campaigns, there are other sectors, such as insurance and finance, which have been slow to recognise its advantages. Social media can be used to offer consumer special deals on products, enter competitions, or simply announce their purchases and lifestyle habits on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

The NHS has already made use of social media, posting tweets and videos on Twitter to provide health advice, such as how to properly apply sunscreen to the body, under its NHS Choices twitter address. To preserve its integrity and professional standing, this social media channel does not offer its followers diagnostic advice on illnesses or symptoms, but simply offers tips on lifestyle choices and healthy living. For advice and information on medical conditions, NHS Choices refers Twitter followers to its 111 telephone number.

In 2012, the PwC Health Research Institute, conducted research into social media use by the healthcare sector, and discovered that patients are increasingly seeking answers to health concerns via social media channels. They also use social media to obtain second opinions, or simply to communicate with other people who are suffering from the same illness or condition.

The survey also found that 80% of people from the 18-24 age group would be prepared to share personal health information via social media.