Changing media environment: what it is

Social media has indisputably changed the media landscape everywhere. Companies have begun to see that they have an incredible tool in social media at their fingertips, allowing them to reach their stakeholders directly.

The PR industry itself has had to change its approach to engaging media. As Steve Rubel, executive VP for Global Strategy and Insights with Edelman, summarizes there has recently been a “dispersion of authority,” in which  the power to shape media conversation has moved away from a few big players, to many smaller ones. The effect of this dispersion is that we now have four different spheres of media, three of which exist on the internet. 

Rubel outlines these as the following:

  • Sphere 1: Traditional media, which includes newspapers, radio, television etc. These mediums allow for little if any audience interaction.
  • Sphere 2: Tradigital” media is a bridge between old and new.
  • Sphere 3: Social media where anyone can say anything they want at any time.
  • Sphere 4: Owned Content. i.e. corporate websites and the like, where every business can act as a media company for the purposes of promoting themselves.

The key to all of is this how sphere 4 not only makes it’s way into that center sphere, public engagement, but how it helps influence the other 3 spheres. The voice of a company’s owned media,  must remain consistent in the other spheres for companies to ensure that the message they want a key audience to hear is heard.

Q: How can this message be heard?

A: First by the companies’ responses digitally to their key audience, and then by following digital promises with physical action.

Q: Who is that key audience ultimately in healthcare?

A: Patients.

Take  a recent example from the press on Tuesday of this week. A study released in the UK by researchers at Imperial College London examined 10,274 ratings submitted on NHS Choices in 2009 and 2010 about all NHS hospital trusts  in England (i.e. hospitals to the US English speaker). They found that hospitals with better patient ratings tended to have lower death and readmission rates. Hospitals rated by patients as being cleaner have lower rates of MRSA infections.

In this instance social media worked against hospitals with poorer reviews and naturally in favor those with positive reviews as it provided a direct and immediate method of exposing the truth of performance. Social media does, however, also present an opportunity for hospitals to engage their patients directly and improve the public’s opinion of their performance.

Are the hospitals still missing this opportunity?  I would contend, yes. Chelsea and Westminster Hospital began to use Facebook by creating their own page in late 2011. Patients were receptive at the page’s inception  posting thank yous and accolades.  Did the hospital take this opportunity to speak with their patients and continue the conversation?

The last post was from October, 2011.

Why does healthcare need social media?

photo courtesy of

Mobile healthcare app downloads are predicted to top 44 million this year, and patients increasingly turn to social media platforms for peer advice and support.On the physician side, tech adoption continues via mobile platforms and integrated EHR solutions. Pharma marketers have done a respectable job of reaching these distinct audiences. The next step is to fully leverage the power of digital and social to maximize the most important dynamic of all—the doctor/patient relationship.– by Chad Latz on MM&


The healthcare industry has been slower than most to join the ranks of organizations that engage their customers directly through social media conversations. This is largely due to two sets of regulations that protect patients: HIPPA that protects a patient’s right to confidentiality and FDA communication regulations that assure prescription drug information is truthful, balanced and accurately communicated. Penalty for breeching either of these federally mandated sets of rules is severe– $$$, loss of business, or even jail time.

So, why enter any communication situation that isn’t completely controlled with that much at stake? Well, many pharma companies and healthcare providers think this question is rhetorical. With this blog, I will explore the other side of this proverbial coin, and answer to this million dollar (pun intended) question.

In my opinion, the simple answer is that if healthcare and pharmaceutical companies don’t join in the conversation, they may no, they will end up excluded.

How, do you ask? And why is this important?

Social media is, of course, a form of communication that can potentially– as all others–be abused. More importantly, however, it has great potential to promote more candid provider-patient, provider-provider and patient-patient communication and ultimately help improve awareness and general health (Great point, Colin Son!).

This kind of open and honest communication between consumers and healthcare professionals (I lump more than just doctors into this; drug reps, nurses, dentists, consumer health product sales people, pharmacists…) provides countless opportunities for not only happy & healthy consumers, but ultimately more revenue for the companies. And what corporation would complain about that?

Sweeping claim? Maybe. Proof? Keep reading my blog to read my support!