"Tools such as Twitter and Facebook provide an additional means of communicating with our members and all consumers in the communities we serve in a way that's convenient and of interest for them," said Anthem president Larry Schreiber in a statement.
The health insurer is piloting a program to use Twitter to identify members with possible questions or concerns about health benefits. Twitter lets Anthem communicate and stay connected through quick, real-time conversation, and respond to each tweet about Anthem. The AnthemHealth account on Twitter has 225 followers, and includes messages to members complaining about long hold times, customer service complaints, and complaints about cancelled coverage.
Anthem is also working with reality show celebrity Bob Harper of the TV program, The Biggest Loser to provide information on healthy lifestyle through Twitter at Harper's account, BobHarperAnthem, which has 12,191 followers,
On the Anthem Facebook page, the company is looking to provide a forum where members can interact with Anthem and each other. The page does not appear to be hugely successful, however, with only 229 fans and all the messages coming from Anthem.
The company also has a YouTube channel, with videos from Harper on health and wellness.
Anthem is not alone; a variety of healthcare providers are using social media to connect with patients, creating new challenges and opportunities for the University of California San Francisco Medical Center and Mayo Clinic.
InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on e-health and the federal stimulus package. Download the report here (registration required).