Sunday, April 27, 2014

Social Media is Transforming Health Care

Social media has quickly become one of the dominant forms of communication today. It seems like everybody is using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or some other platform to connect with friends and family. People use social media for all sorts of reasons, but they’re also increasingly using it to get medical information. According to one study, almost a third of consumers have used social media for a specific health care purpose. In fact, the rise of social media is leading to some very big changes in the health care industry, affecting patients, doctors, and hospitals alike.
Doctor to Patient

Social media is allowing doctors to engage with patients in a way that simply wasn’t possible years ago. Roughly 60% of doctors even say social media has improved the quality of health care for patients. One of the main ways social media is helping health care is by increasing communication between the two parties. On social media, patients are able to ask their doctor questions about illnesses, treatments, and other issues they may be having. Doctors can then respond in a timely manner. Doctors can also communicate with patients even more directly through social media tools like Google Hangouts. With this open and timely communication in play, patients will be more satisfied with the help they get and more loyal to their provider.
Patient to Patient
Much of the change in health care will be driven by what patients are doing on social media. Patients are already using forums like Facebook to talk to each other about treatments, ailments, and prescriptions. Many feel comfortable sharing information like this online. On Facebook alone, 24% of health-related conversations are post about health experiences or updates while 27% are comments about those posts. People take their health seriously, and many of them trust what their closest friends and family say on social media about medical issues. One way patients are connecting with each other in unprecedented ways is through the formation of patient groups. People facing the same issues, along with their families, join these social networks to get feedback from each other about doctors, the latest treatments, and medications. It’s also a place to go to receive support and help during difficult times. The content and data from these groups can even be sent to health clinics and organizations to provide for better health care options in the future.
Doctor to Doctor
Patients aren’t the only ones connecting with each other on social media; doctors are finding that it is the perfect place to engage in professional networking. Doctors have the ability to follow their colleagues through Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn in an effort to exchange vital health care information. While every doctor may not be providing content on these platforms, they are still reading and observing what their colleagues are producing so they may keep up to date on new practices, techniques, and ideas. Social media is also a way for doctors to keep educated on industry trends and regulations that are constantly changing due to reforms and new laws.
Hospital to Patient
Only about one out of every four hospitals actually participates in social media in the U.S. For those that do, they’re exploring effective new ways to connect with patients outside the hospital walls. Social media is the way many hospitals are able to keep in touch with their past present and future patients. Hospitals can also engage in outreach in other ways, such as promoting the hospital web site and blogs from doctors. Hospital YouTube sites are also experiencing a surge of viewers, giving hospitals another outlet to use to inform patients. Facebook is another popular platform for hospitals when it comes to sharing content.
As more doctors, patients, and hospitals use social media, there are a number of serious concerns that arise. Issues concerning privacy and security are at the top of the list. To complicate matters, some hospitals have implemented Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, allowing doctors and nurses to bring their own smartphones and tablets in as part of their jobs. To address these concerns, hospital are setting social media policies indicating what can and cannot be posted and how best to engage with patients in order to protect their privacy. As social media becomes more common in health care, these policies will continue to evolve to best suit the needs of everyone involved.
Social media is transforming nearly every aspect of our lives, and health care is no exception. With more doctors and hospitals using social media, patients are expected to be healthier and happier as time goes on.