Telehealth Tapping into Social Influence

By Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA

In a recent Harvard Business Review Blog, David Armano writes about the six pillars of influence that leads to measurably favorable outcomes.

To achieve measurably better health, the pillars Armano explains can certainly be adopted.

He notes how the “social web can amplify signals, influence behavior and lead to action.”

Social networking has changed the landscape in health care.  Technology has paved the way for instant communication and feedback.

While some companies continue to question the value of social media networking, debating whether or not they should be on Twitter or Facebook, others have superseded the hesitation, and are presently into the next phase of social networking.

The companies who currently have delved into the social media networking space can find their customers are already there, sharing their health concerns, supporting one another, and seeking better health outcomes.  They can interact with them in real-time, and monitor behavior and trends.  According to Deloitte, “Social networks hold considerable potential value for health care organizations because they can be used to reach stakeholders, aggregate information and leverage collaboration.”

The power of social media networking is vast.  Sharing thoughts, ideas, viewpoints, posting updates, collaborating with consumers and colleagues is immeasurable. Tapping into a community of users whose word-of-mouth influence in the social space is fierce, and it goes beyond the standard role of social media networking.

Facebook, Twitter and Google plus are only a few of the social networking platforms utilized, and the millions of individuals who use it have the capability to spread information like wild fire.  They can reach and influence others in their social circles at lightning speed.

Individuals have the capability to influence their friends about their favorite restaurant, movies, electronics and TV shows; but imagine the power that individuals have to influence their circle of friends, and their friends and so on and so on, about better health.

Within the circles of social networking, trust and relationships are formed.  Individuals can take an active role in promoting health and wellness.  Social influence develops based on the trust within the circles of the social network.  Family and friends can help inspire and motivate each other.  They can also hold others within their circles accountable for their actions.  People with influence and trust can help others achieve their health goals.

Applying the science of behavior change in the social networking space possibly may lead to better outcomes. [Side Note:  This area of behavior change needs to be further researched; additionally the idea of behavior change leading possibly to better outcomes is debatable.  I would like to delve further into this topic and write a future post with my stance after reviewing the research.]

In a meeting summary from the National Institutes of Health on the Science of Behavior Change, it concluded that:

“The science of behavior change has long suffered from fragmentation along scientific and topical boundaries…Yet because unhealthy behaviors cause so much morbidity and mortality, the status quo cannot prevail. There is, however, renewed hope that the NIH can facilitate progress by supporting research on basic mechanisms of behavior change and by fostering transdisciplinary efforts spanning Institutes, Centers, and levels of analysis.”  NIH SOBC Meeting, June 15-16, 2009 Meeting Summary

As stated above by the National Institutes of Health, “the status quo cannot prevail.”  Moving to the next level which incorporates utilizing the powerful social networking platform that harbors powerful social influence may be an answer to help foster healthy living.

Engaging with a powerful and influential supportive community of family and friends in the social circles, and having health experts offer action plans with inspiration and motivation to better manage chronic conditions and to improve overall well-being; individuals can be guided to better health efficacy.

A future post will reveal how telehealth companies are going beyond the standard social media networking and tapping into the power of social influence.

Your turn

We would love to hear from you. How do you influence your friends and family within your social networking circles?


Harvard Business ReviewHBR Blog Network, “Pillars of Social Influence”

Deloitte – Social Networks in Health Care:  Communication, collaboration and insights

NIH Science of Behavior Change, Bethesda, Maryland, June 15-16, 2009
MEETING SUMMARY, National Institutes of Health

[Image: tungphoto /]

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  1. 1

    How do I influence my friends and family? I tell them the truth about nutrition(1). Sadly, the federal government doesn’t(2). Worse yet, most health professionals regard the government’s nutritional advice as authoritative(3). Not a good idea because government agencies and academia are strongly influenced by corporate interests(4,5,6).


  2. 2

    I influence my friends and family via Facebook and Twitter with medical/mental health links to documentaries, articles from the CDC, and health care videos from you tube. i believe an informed person has more choices in being a part of their health care. Further, they could save someone’s life remembering something from a video I posted; say for example, on CPR. Medical information may be boring to some people, and it’s a thrill to me. I am a nurse.

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