When Debraya Mukherjee admitted his 67-year-old mother Kabita in Fortis Hospital at Anandapur, Odisha, for a spinal cord decompression surgery, he was little aware of the ordeal that he would have to go through. After the operation, his mother became immobile for a prolonged period. Mukherjee voiced his discontent at a consumer complaint forum, which was later posted on Facebook, on a page named ‘Avoid Fortis Hospital Noida’. The page describes itself as a community to connect those who lost their loved ones due to negligent treatment. It has over 1,200 followers.
Fortis did not comment on the particular Facebook page.
The hospital, however, has a team of three people handling the content on social media, and is also working with a digital marketing agency to improve its presence. “Comments on social media offer us scope to improve. Our ratio of bad versus good posts remains 15:35; all posts are interactive,” says Gaurav Dudeja, chief marketing officer at Fortis Hospitals.
Mukherjee is not alone.
Social media – WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Skype and Viber – is slowly evolving into more than a platform for sharing pictures, videos and chats. From searching doctors to posting feedback about hospitals and treatments, they are helping doctors reach out to patients, guide them for treatments, provide post-surgery counselling and create close-knit support communities.
Lucknow-based Taqi Hassan recently underwent a complex life-saving surgery at the Fortis Flt Lt Rajan Dhall Hospital, with the help of funds raised through social media appeals. Hassan received R8 lakh through donations by communities from the US and Australia, which was used to remove a tumour on the forehead.
At Max Super Speciality Hospitals in the Capital, WhatsApp has connected several breast cancer patients with specialists, who are available for counselling round the clock.
Doctors at New Delhi-based Indian Spinal Injuries Centre frequently use WhatsApp, Skype and Viber to reach out to patients for post-surgery counselling and rehabilitation training.
BLK Superspeciality hospital has created its own WhatsApp group for bariatric patients to stay in touch with surgeons and dietitians.
Dr Lal Path Labs, a diagnostic chain, has recently opened a new department to handle queries on social media and drive positive conversations around the brand. “We are boosting our presence on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn and Instagram. It is a way forward for any business,” says Om Manchanda, CEO, Dr Lal Path Labs.
According to a recent report by marketing and analytics firm Hansa Cequity, “there are over 100 million Indians who use social media networks and the numbers are only increasing by the day. This phenomenon creates the opportunity for healthcare service providers to engage with customers at a more personal level.”
“Hospitals are increasingly using blogs as a tool for customer rating and feedback. Some organisations also allow users to blog about their experiences on the company blog or link the blogger’s personal blog to their company website. Prospective customers always see more value in peer reviews, compared to company generated content such as the advertisements,” the report titled ‘How Digital Can Transform Healthcare Relationships’ states.
“Social media is pervading businesses across industries. It is shaping public opinion and eventually transforming the overall business ecosystem,” says S Swaminathan, CEO and co-founder, Hansa Cequity.
Social media platforms also generate data, which can be analysed by healthcare companies to improve services.
“The online platform provides huge conversations around all diseases, quality of healthcare providers, pharma companies etc. Digital is bridging knowledge around healthcare needs. Also, it helps plot trends around what people look for, search and are concerned about,” adds Swaminathan.