Social media plays an ever growing role in the modern healthcare setting. Whether used as a means of obtaining health information, sharing ideas, or developing professional relationships, social media offers many potential benefits for health professionals and consumers alike. Below are three examples of how social media is positively impacting health care.
1. Professional sounding board
Social media allows health professionals to share and obtain knowledge and experiences with other – often more experienced – professionals. Dedicated online communities, groups and forums, such as allnurses.com, physicianassistantforum.com and doctorslounge.com are just three examples of community sites which encourage user participation via active forum threads, and seek to provide solutions to problems through advice-led articles and blogs. When it comes to discussing more private matters, closed Facebook or LinkedIn groups provide a less public platform for debate.
Social media is a great way for healthcare professionals to build networks and gain knowledge, which only goes to benefit the wider health system.
2. Health education
There is a growing number of people turning to online channels to obtain medical advice and information. In fact, a recent study found that 72% of internet users have searched for health information online, 59% of whom were specifically looking to diagnose a health condition, either for themselves or someone else.
Social media acts as a valuable platform for educating the public about various health risks, promoting ways to help prevent illnesses, and even broadcasting critical information in the event of a disease outbreak or medical crisis.
In similar vein, social media can support the education of students; numerous studies have found that the use of social media to support and enhance learning has positive long-term effects on students.
For the benefit of both medical professionals and the wider public, it is increasingly important that accurate and up to date medical information is available online. Social media plays an important role in delivering such information in an accessible and digestible format.
3. Reputation and relationship management
Whether we like it or not, our online reputation is a catalyst for how we are perceived and remembered more widely. For healthcare organizations and professionals, this can present both problems and opportunities.
By implementing a social media strategy, healthcare organizations and professionals are able to manage their reputation, and are better placed to respond to any negativity, should it come their way. By sharing useful, insightful and original content and ideas, organizations and professionals can demonstrate their authority on a subject and set themselves apart from the competition, which will attract more attention for all the right reasons.
Whilst the use of social media can positively impact clinical workflows and outcomes in a number of ways, it is not without its risks. A key concern for most organizations and individuals within the industry stems from the requirement to adhere to HIPAA legislation and rules surrounding patient privacy and confidentiality. Organizations who wish to use social media in any capacity need to ensure that sufficient social media policies are implemented, and that employees are trained to comply to these regulations.