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Social Media Opens Up New Revenue Streams For Healthcare Providers

Innovative use of social media and social technologies can improve the patient-doctor relationship as well as the healthcare industry by reducing inefficiencies and provide more immediate and engaging advice at a lower cost.

This is an outcome of the study, by Peter DeVries of the Department of Finance, Accounting, and CIS, at the University of Houston, that is published this month in the International Journal of Electronic Finance.

Cost-effective participatory healthcare enabled by social media

Digital and social technologies support cost-effective participatory healthcare. Both patients as doctors/physicians believe the Internet is a real asset to share information and access information to get more control over people’s own health.

Relationships (between care givers and patients/family) have a major impact on healthcare outcomes. Facilitating engagement and participation among healthcare stakeholders is a major opportunity that can be provided and enriched by social media. Social media is all about relationships, transparency and trust. This fits the outcomes of the study in relation to the increase in quality and lowering costs.

Beyond patient-doctor relationships – care cycle stakeholders

DeVries said the patient-doctor relationship has changed little and the two aspects of social media that might revolutionize healthcare provision lie in the relationships between patients, the relationships between physicians and perhaps most importantly the relationships between the two. Healthcare providers can provide platforms where patients can exchange experiences, lower-cost digital advice and all sorts of home healthcare services.

I think it should go beyond these two stakeholders, adding insurers, government, pharmacies and patient institutions.

Why? Because the complete care-cycle and all its players are subject to external changes and developments.

Maintaining or improving existing revenue streams

Not only can social technologies open up new revenue streams, they can also maintain or improve existing revenue streams. Relationships are about trust and trust convinces people to keep a certain relationship where mutual understanding is created.

This understanding and credibility can be enriched by social media and technologies making sure existing revenue streams are not put in danger.

Pharma example

Lipitor, Pfizer’s multi-billion dollar cholesterol lowering medication, lost patent protection at the end of 2011. A number of generic medications will soon enter the market, so Lipitor won’t be able to maintain a premium price as pharmacies and insurance plans aggressively move patients to the generics.

As this blog mentioned, this highlights an interesting issue: pharma brands have no value. The idea of swapping in a generic for a brand is odd, but pharma companies generally cut spending on a product when the patent expires because stakeholders such as insurances and pharmacies move towards generics.

The blog ends with “Without strong brands, pharma companies will always be a few years away from disaster. Solving the branding dilemma should be a top industry priority,” and this is exactly where better relationships must be build, trust can be reinforced and where services (via social media) ultimately help consolidate and protect core product businesses. Services also result in increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Gain competitive advantage

By providing service value propositions to all stakeholders, bei t a healthcare provider or pharma brand, it strenghtens the brand, relationship and becoming the trusted advisor. We’re back at where this article started with: facilitating engagement and participation among healthcare stakeholders is a major opportunity to gain competitive advantage, protect core businesses and increase satisfaction and loyalty.

What opportunities and propositions do you see that are supported by social media?