Beyond Communication: Social Media Can Help Pay Your Health Care Bills!

Just a few weeks ago, I recapped the "Top 3 Pop Health Trends in 2013".  Topping my list was the intersection between social media and public health.  I've written about using social media for everything in public health from advocacy to emergency response to surveillance.  So I was intrigued to see a recent story that highlighted another innovation:  allowing patients to use social media to pay for health care services.

The "Pay-With-A-Tweet" program was launched by Telecure as a way to market their telehealth services.  They link California residents with an urgent care provider within 15 minutes of their call.  Clinicians are made available to callers via phone or video as a way to reduce access to care barriers.

The "Pay-With-A-Tweet" program will waive the $25 consultation fee if patients share their experiences on Facebook or Twitter.  According to media reports on the program, the idea blossomed after Telecure officials noticed that patients were discussing their experiences on social media.  Creating a formal program allowed Telecure to (1) take advantage of social media marketing and (2) provide those short on cash with an alternate way to pay for care.

Telecure's CEO told mHealth News that the program's goals are currently to "stimulate awareness and growth".

I'd be interested to see how Telecure is evaluating this program and hope to see some follow-up press or research that documents the strengths and challenges of this strategy.

Some thoughts that come to mind for me:

  • To tweet or not to tweet?  How do patient concerns about privacy contribute to their decision to participate in this program?  Many patients may not want to share with their social networks that they've been consulting with a physician (regardless of the diagnosis)- is that a barrier to taking advantage of this program?
  • Is social media heavily utilized among their target populations (patients in remote locations and under served patients)?  What do those user patterns look like?
  • How are tweets/facebook posts about negative experiences being handled?  Are negative posts still being promoted along with positive posts?  How are Telecure officials monitoring posts for customer service problems that may have occurred?
  • How are tweets/facebook posts being promoted to the public?  For example, I searched several hashtags on twitter after seeing the media coverage (e.g., #telecure, #paywithatweet) but was not able to find any results that included reviews of their services.  If they are using social media to market services, they will want the patient posts to be easy to find! 

What Do You Think?

  • Is using social media for payment an effective strategy to engage these and other target populations?
  • What other evaluation questions/considerations should be raised in addition to those I've listed above?


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