As well as demonstrating how social media can be used to track societal trends and priorities, the survey reveals just how big a presence health has in online conversations – and, by extension, how many opportunities exist in the social media space for major healthcare brands.
The ‘Dr. Google’ phenomenon
The Internet is currently something of a minefield where health is concerned. Driven by embarrassment, a negative impression of the health system or simply by a well-intentioned (but often misguided) wish not to ‘bother’ a doctor, an increasing number of people are turning to ‘Dr. Google’ for advice.
The Net provides a veil of anonymity that facilitates the exploration and discussion of more sensitive or personal health issues. But while self-education is positive in theory, it is fraught with pitfalls where health is concerned, particularly in the absence of medical tests, confirmation from a doctor or a face-to-face consultation.
Bridging the gap
To counter ‘Dr. Google’ and reduce the likelihood – and associated dangers – of misdiagnosis, healthcare professionals in France have turned to social media channels.
Doctissimo is staffed and run by healthcare professionals and is now the largest online forum in France, receiving eight million unique visitors to its website each month and promoting itself on Facebook, Twitter and its own YouTube channel.
Its domestic success has led to Spanish, Italian and English incarnations and is an excellent example of the way sound medical advice, as well as important information on general health and well-being, can be delivered. While Doctissimo still recognises that a definitive diagnosis can only be provided in person by a medical professional, its approach is far superior to accepting an anecdotal diagnosis from Answers.com or some other non-professional forum.