In 2015, a London couple – Cillian Nemas, 60, and Robert Nemas, 67 were in search of centers of excellence for eye surgery in India. One challenge they met was the dearth of direct channels through which Indian hospitals could be assessed and evaluated for their quality and success rates of medical procedures.
The couple turned to the internet, tracking down several hospitals in Hyderabad until they found Maxivision Super-specialty Eye Hospitals as the perfect center to undergo an optiwave refractive analysis laser cataract surgery.
Not only was the procedure successful, the couple saved an extra £4000 by having it done in India. Robert noted that the poor social media presence of many Indian hospitals reduced their visibility and in turn the number of international patients from the UK, for instance.
This emphasizes the value of social media to healthcare tourist destinations. Social media plays an integral role in brand marketing and online reputation building which, in turn, is critical to maintaining international clientele and patient volume.
Technology has begun to sweep through healthcare revolutionizing it as we know it. Patients are beginning to seek answers to their health questions on their mobile devices. Pew National survey of 2014 revealed that no fewer than 72 percent of Americans search online for health information and one of every four of them read about someone else’s experience with a similar condition they have.
In the past, online reputation never mattered to physicians and healthcare providers but given the recent paradigm shift created by digitalized healthcare, online reputation of these providers have become a priority.
Stakeholders in medical tourism are starting to employ the social media market to its full potential. Traditional means of brand marketing are giving way for tech-enhanced methods, using social media platforms to build strong online reputations to expand international patient reach.
Recent findings have revealed that international patient departments and healthcare providers are starting to see the benefits of building a strong online reputation by harnessing the opportunities on social media. This trend is expected to experience a huge rise as health tourism market becomes more competitive.
As individuals become more social media-friendly, they share their personal opinions about certain organizations, including healthcare providers, and medical travelers tend to rely on these anecdotes than details obtained from the social media pages of the provider or by contacting the provider.
Role of Social Media in Promoting Online Reputation
Social media can make or break the online reputation of a health tourist site. A poor review by a user would only leave a negative impression and a drop in interest for such a healthcare provider. Therefore, providers are required to maintain high standards of quality and professionalism if they must reap the benefits of the social media factor.
Dr. Kevin Pho, a leading social media voice and past speaker at the Medical Tourism Congress noted a few ways in which social media promotes healthcare providers and their online reputation, as well as healthcare delivery in general.
This remains a crucial marketing element for stakeholders in the health tourism industry. Health tourist destinations are only as successful as their brand visibility and how accessible they are to patients.
Patients get to read tweets or Facebook posts, for instance, and get engaged by the health information posted. These platforms are strong influencers in the decision-making process of medical tourists. In the case of Robert and Cillian Nemas, visibility made the difference, setting Maxivision Eye Hospitals apart from the rest.
Proactive Online Brand and Reputation
Social media creates an avenue for external brand ambassadors – the customers – to communicate, in their words, what a provider’s brand stands for. Healthcare providers could engage patients for whom they have provided healthcare treatment in the past.
Furthermore, social media provides an avenue for providers to display their areas of competences, innovations, contributions to health care, cutting-edge technological advances, and success stories.
Dr. Pho, in his speech, described the features of a proactive social media platform as one in which patient reviews and provider ranking are expressed and appropriate feedback is given to negative reviews to keep the provider’s online reputation intact.
Interaction with Patients
It isn’t unusual for patients to search online for information regarding symptoms, the kind of treatment required, as well as prevention for a number of common conditions. Healthcare providers can use social media platforms as an avenue to educate patients through articles, blog posts, and podcasts, thereby connecting with the patients on a personal and emotional level.
Additionally, providers can, via social media, provide patients with information regarding treatment best practices, updates on treatment protocols, and preventive measures against certain diseases. Some providers post live procedures on their social media pages to give viewers firsthand knowledge of the steps required in performing a surgical procedure.
This also serves as a learning model for medical students and other healthcare professionals who may improve their skills by watching such videos.
Connecting with patients on this level creates a bond which not only serves a benefit of high patient volume to the provider but ensures that patients maintain a high quality of health in and out of the hospital.
Offer Perspectives on Breaking News
Healthcare reform, for instance, is a trending topic in the health sector and it affects employers, employees, and even retirees. Part of building a strong online reputation is providing useful perspectives to such news articles as it concerns the patient.
Social media should serve as an avenue for dialogue and interactions on topical issues concerning health with these discussions centered on helping patients make informed choices concerning their health.
Another vital role of social media in health tourism is creating a bridge between medical tourists and the healthcare providers. International patient departments can create social media contacts through which prospective medical travelers can access details regarding treatment in the tourist destination.
In addition, a well-trained customer service team, as the internal brand ambassadors, should be in place to respond to inquiries and give patients a good impression up front.
Social media is indeed one tool that, if tapped, would lead to an immense growth of the medical tourism industry. With the platform bringing patients and providers across different geographical locations in one place, it serves as a strong channel for creating a solid online reputation and expressing one’s brand to a large audience.