Pinterest is now the Internet’s third largest social networking site. It allows users to bookmark or “Pin” photos of things they like and share them with others in their network. In practice, Pinterest has proven to be a great way for like-minded people to share recipes, fashion tips, decorating advice, and other lifestyle ideas.

But as Pinterest has grown and evolved it has taken on new applications, including some that relate directly to the confluence of healthcare and technology. For instance, The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance signed up for Pinterest and quickly found that their photos were being “Pinned” and shared more widely than they expected.

The site has proven to be a valuable marketing resource that is uniquely applicable to healthcare. As many as 12 percent of the adults online use Pinterest, and the vast majority of them are women. Women primarily make healthcare decision within families, making Pinterest a proven resource for reaching out to the entire patient base by focusing on one specific segment.

So far, the most frequently pinned pictures have largely to do with wellness – diet, exercise, parenting, etc. The abridged format of the site makes it easy for users to seeks out tips, tricks, strategies, and advice in an easily-digestible format that is a welcome antidote to the jargon and technicality that medial information is notorious for.

Pintrest has also proven valuable for refocusing healthcare messaging more on prevention than treatment. For obvious reasons, users are more likely to gravitate towards and share pictures/messages that have to do with staying healthy rather than diagnosing and treating ailments.

Healthcare organizations are already finding unique ways to use Pinterest to their advantage. For example, a partner of The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance used Pinterest to encourage followers to paint their finger or toe nails teal (the color associated with Ovarian Cancer) and share photos on the site as a way to get a conversation started. Pintrest has also been used to bolster fund raising efforts, direct users to “mommy blogs,” and publicize health fairs.

The popularity and visual nature of the social networking site makes it a valuable alternative to other methods for attracting attention online. Unfortunately, this has also proven to be a drawback. Engaging the user in a conversation is often difficult, and Pinterest makes it so easy to Pin and share pictures that some users feel overwhelmed by information and become disengaged.

It’s clear, however, that Pinterest has a role to play in the future of healthcare, especially when used as part of a broader social media strategy. And even though it often gets overlooked, using technology to distribute information about health and wellness is a crucial responsibility of HIM. If your organization is ready to get on Pinterest, or to enter the world of social media, find the help you need by contacting the experienced staffing professionals at MedPartners HIM.

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