Devices & Diagnostics

How the medical industry is using (and could use): Google+

In some ways, Google+ offers more intriguing possibilities for the medical industry than other platforms, for hospitals, payers, pharmaceutical companies and rare disease communities. With more than 90 million subscribers as of January, it seeks to cultivate the best features from Facebook and YouTube in one place. Its greatest advantage is in the flexibility it gives users to organize their own communities. Users can do Skype-style video chats with a group of people, or they can record video segments and distribute them to a desired circle or group within their community.

 

The medical industry has developed a certain comfort level with the first generation of social media channels of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn. But a new wave of social media tools offer a lot of potential such as Pinterest, Google+ and StumbleUpon, and hospitals, medical device and pharmaceutical companies are looking at how to enlist these tools in their social media strategy.

In some ways, Google+ offers more intriguing possibilities than other platforms for hospitals, payers, pharmaceutical companies and rare disease communities. Launched last year, it has more than 90 million subscribers as of January. It seeks to combine the best features from Facebook and YouTube. Its greatest advantage is in the flexibility it gives users to organize their own communities. Users can have Skype-style video chats with a group of people, or they can record video segments and distribute them to a desired circle or group within their community. 

Organizing peer and patient groups. Another strong asset, says William Martino of Saatchi & Saatchi Health, is that users can tailor messages to different groups and audiences. For example, a physician could have one circle for fellow cardiologists in his or her practice, another for members of an industry association, and a third for patients. Medrise has been making the most of Google+ resources to develop its niche medical domains.

Clinical trials. To accompany the drive toward telemedicine, drug developers and pharmaceutical companies could use Google+ to implement clinical trials or assist with tracking them. Transparency Life Sciences said it wanted to shake up the clinical trial process. The company could use Google+ to gather patient and physician feedback on how a clinical trial could be designed. During a trial, patients could submit data from home where they are likely to be the most comfortable.

Optimizing Google searches. Google essentially made a decision to tweak its search algorithm to favor Google+ pages, says Brendan Gallagher of Digitas Health. In theory, by joining Google+ companies could make themselves easier to find than rivals.

Organizing orphan drug users. Developers of orphan drugs can have a strong rapport with the communities that depend on them, particularly through patient advocate and associations representing these communities. By definition orphan drugs are developed to treat rare diseases that under 200,000 people have. The features that have made Facebook so successful apply here as well — the ability to group together people who may be hundreds of miles apart or within a 10 block radius and help them find and connect with each other

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Care pages. Literally taking a page from Carepages, some see the ability for hospitals and other healthcare facilities to create communities for individual patients that could include family, friends, patient advocate associations, as well as groups of people with similar maladies. The video component of hangouts could be used by patients to express how they feel, any symptoms or side effects they feel with their illness or treatment that could be used like a video diary.

[Photo from flickr user Jeff Livingston]