A smart healthcare marketing blog
August 2011

What do patients share online?

According to a report from the Pew Internet Project 80% of U.S. internet consumers seek health information online, making it the third most popular activity after email and search engines.

The common goal for all hospitals is patient activation, engagement and education. Marketers need to understand what patients are sharing, how they are sharing it and why.

A survey conducted in June 2011 by Minneapolis marketing research firm Russell Herder “Seeking Social Solace: How Patients Use Social Media To Disclose Medical Diagnoses Online” gives us some answers.



40%  of the medical conditions that were disclosed by patients online in 2010 were cancer-related, 16% diabetes and 5% were related to sexually transmitted diseases, according to a research study by Russell Herder.

Unsurprisingly, breast cancer patients had the same number of online self-disclosures as prostate cancer, colon cancer, leukemia, bone cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, lung cancer, skin cancer, pancreatic cancer, testicular cancer and brain cancer all combined.

But where do patients share their personal health stories?

The research found that blogs were the most popular platform to self-disclose diagnoses with 51% of patients using them to share their stories. This was followed by online message boards at 30%, Facebook and Twitter at meager 7%.

What can hospital marketers do to facilitate?

The internet has changed how patients get access to healthcare information and social media is changing how they seek comfort from each other during this trying times.

As healthcare marketers, we must ensure that we offer our patients, not just great care but, access to online forums so they can continue to heal after the leave our hospitals.


This is such important data and very important to the patient experience. Your thinking is right on the money. Which hc organizations are leading the way?

I think this graph shows the power of traditional media to make certain diseases acceptable and easy to talk about. Cancer organizations have done a great job raising awareness, removing any stigma of the disease, and making patients feel empowered.

It’s not enough to provide places to talk. You have to bring greater social acceptance to the disease and make patients feel that they have a role in their treatment.

Great insight. In addition to cancer, we saw much success with social for fertility services, bariatric patients and transplant patients. Websites that foster a “community of care” across the entire patient experience tend to attract and retain participants. Interactive websites that offer real-time medical insight, stories and resources (including clinical trials) certainly are helpful, however, it’s important for the clinical operation to participate and ultimately integrate the social venue into their business operation to be truly effective. Less marketing with more timely and valuable services will help encourage participants to utilize and share online, respectively.

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