On the one hand, physicians’ adoption of social media interaction with patients through the Internet is restricted due to legal and regulatory issues. On the other hand, patients seek trustable health information on the Internet and want to share their experiences and exchange information with peers. In a low engagement, low trust environment like the Spanish healthcare market, the www.vi.vu experience shows a path for interaction between users (patients or not) and professionals in a credible and safe way.
The network is open to health professionals and patients on a linking and question-and-answer basis. Each member can create their own network of professionals depending on the kind of information they are interested in. It is possible to interact privately but many of these conversations are archived publicly, enabling anyone with similar conditions to benefit from reading about them. Professionals also interact between them and exchange information.
Attracting professionals through reputation
Spain has a universal and publicly funded National Health System. Although in some regions the right for physician election exists, this is not the general rule. At least 25% of citizens have private health insurance to supplement the public offer. It is in this setting that physicians and hospitals or clinics begin to be conscious of the need to have a reputation among patients in order to be selected through the private insurance.
The www.vi.vu network offers professionals and healthcare providers a system for referencing and recommendation based on their professional profile and their activity in the network.
In the network, physicians act as mediators of information between parties. As Ignacio Parada – manager of the network – says, “they prescribe trustable and useful information”.
In this sense, the more active you are, the better indexing ranking you have in search engines (like Google) and the greater likelihood you have of obtaining a recommendation as a trustable source from patients and/or other professionals.
The network was launched last March in its final beta version and already has 400 professionals and thousands of users who share more than 4,000 links and 700 answers. Users and Patients join the network by invitation from professionals or by their own means.
permits any member to build his own team of professionals which provides useful information and counsel, either publicly or privately. This enables the patient to be in charge of his recovery process or to prevent any illness he could be exposed to.
Once the patients have acquired experience in an illness they can also be a trustable source of information for others and can upload or link any information they consider will help others.
The information traded in the network is already on the Internet. “There is no need to create new content when there are huge amounts on the Internet from credible sources”, says Parada. These credible sources are better know by health professionals. In some cases, the professional can refer to content created by the pharmaceutical industry or insurance providers. In this way, they have an opportunity to send their information to patients. “But of course, they have to adapt it to the patient and sweep away any advertorial or message inducing to purchase of their products”, according to Parada.
www.vi.vu offers different services to health providers who want to carry out network projects with health professionals, such as talking to members on a daily basis in order to help them provide information in best manner. For example, many professionals have good articles about how to cope with a disease which might be better understood if translated into audiovisual media or supported by graphics.
Vi.vu aims to show professionals in the healthcare industry the opportunity they have through the network, to become trustable agents and gain credibility from the public. They think that the future of the network will come from the ability of the industry to participate, be a player and help the network to succeed in enabling all agents to benefit from the service.
They have a good number of clever ideas to develop the network further. For example, they plan to offer educational disease management programs or drug interaction databases. For now they prefer to consolidate the model, help professionals understand the importance of their online reputation and the vital role they can play in guiding their patients through trustable sources of information.