Social media for the expanding health care audience

Building strength in virtual communications helps everyone, no matter how old or young. Some people think social media is the sole territory of Millenials and younger. Nothing could be further from the truth as far as this Boomer is concerned.

I work for Hawaii Medical Service Association as a communicator. I am someone who takes our message and shapes it for its audience, which, in my case is providers, those whom HMSA partners with to provide medical services to its members. I’ve found my niche. I wake up with a mission. I believe getting health care to everyone is the right thing to do. 

Lately, I’ve been asked about my ideas for social media.  That’s pretty cool because, finally, people are figuring out that being savvy about social media doesn’t have an age limit. In fact, an article on Mashable, complete with statistics, indicates that senior participation on the Internet has increased  yearly, and will continue to do so. Kaiser Permanente, in a July 2009, news release, announced that seniors embrace the Internet and frequently access its My Health Manager sytsem on

Health care is a huge issue in the United States. There are chasms regarding the health care mandate, but one thing is certain. We all need it, and that includes children through those in our aged population.

So, while I get my high school class of ’76 brain picked on how best to use social media when it comes to health care, let me put this out there: After I give you all of my great ideas, are you then going to hire someone half my age, without enough life experience to strike any kind of connection, let alone empathy, with Carl Fredericksen, who just started a Facebook page and is friends with his grandchildren in junior high and who also has reconnected with his high school sweetheart, class of 1954? Don’t count on it.

If we’re talking about the health care marketplace, where are the most dollars generated? What demographic drives up utilization costs? While addressing members of all ages, emphasis needs to be put on connecting with those 50 and older. If they are not utilizing services yet, they are the ones shuttling their aging parents and grandparents who do,  as well as babysitting their own grandchildren, and often not quite taking care of themselves. Eventually, they need to see a doctor, too.

You know what’s exciting? It is getting easier and easier to communicate via this virtual world that continues to expand. I remember first logging in during the late 1980s with an email account and participating on bulletin boards. The public World Wide Web had yet to be and I remember the first time I saw a Web page. Whoa! It’s hilarious to try to explain to my daughters that life did exist without the Internet. They still cannot fathom it.

Increasing an organization’s presence on the Internet, via Facebook and Twitter today, and definitely something even more amazing tomorrow, simplifies and shortens the distance between helplessness and being informed.

That’s exciting. Not only are we becoming a more informed society, we’re not afraid to ask questions. Crotchety old dudes like Frederickson (the senior citizen voiced by Ed Asner in the movie ‘UP’) no longer wait for direction, they go digging for themselves. We must anticipate their needs:  What’s available to them? Do health plans organize their outreach to address the concerns of those 50 and older while staying dynamic and interesting to those younger?

If social media is limited to a certain segment of society, then guess what? That’s your audience. Can we afford NOT to reach the audience where the most money is being spent? Organize an area that can design relevant communications and push virtual messages toward this savvy and receptive segment. They may be just who we need to get their children, those frazzed souls between the ages of 40 and 60, online as well. That’s the Sandwich Generation.

By lavagal

Hawaii Kai wife and mom. Melanoma Stage 3a Cancer survivor. English Language Arts teacher, English Learners Coordinator, and Paraprofessional Tutor. Super sub teacher. Dormant triathlete. Road cyclist and Masters swimmer. Gardener. Mrs. Fixit. Random dancer. Music Curator. A teenager trapped in an aging body. Did you know 60 is the new 40? It is.

1 comment

  1. the biggest challenge, IMO, is that there are too many labels for what things are or need to be. and ‘social networking’ is one such label.

    if it were called ‘reaching out electronically,’ it’d strike a better chord with folks who aren’t all “twitter-tuned,” and “facebook-fazed.” of course, my example terminology is useless because it hasn’t been thought through, but you get the idea.

    the biggest challenge with businesses in trying to embrace “social media,” is that it’s not a media, and it also isn’t social. it’s already transcended what it was first imagined as being. it’s become a new dimension of the ether.

    imagine, if you will, a world where mobile phones ran on a completely different communication mechanism from landline phones. oh wait, they do! and so based on this premise, the true proliferation of mobile phones wasn’t based solely on its mobility, nor its (still expensive) plans, it’s the fact that it borrowed an already-existing concept and created a new way for it to exist.

    so really, “social media,” is not the true label it deserves. in the mobile phone analogy, “social media” is the new way telephonic conversation is transmitted wirelessly from handheld devices to whomever receives the call. and twitter, facebook, and other outlets become the handsets; internet connectivity is already there to facilitate the exchange.

    so it’s a labeling problem. once we fix that, “social media” will no longer exist in its current label, but then become the type of expectation that your daughters have for the internet.

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