Impact of Social Media on Healthcare

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Background

Since the emergence of social media back in 2004, the number of patients and healthcare professionals who use this technology method is multiplying.

According to independent research, 66 per cent of the UK population are connected to a social account of some type. The benefit of such a large audience can be cashed in in the form of efficient communication. In this age of socially connected societies, healthcare information is easy to disperse to the masses. The Coronavirus epidemic’s recent crisis is a perfect example of how social media can educate many people on any particular topic. The public and private healthcare agencies used social media to inform the masses about prevention and gathered data to analyse the spread of the virus, hence enabling the government to take efficient measures to contain the spread of the virus.

What are the key benefits of social media in healthcare?

Some of the key advantages of social media in the healthcare system and how it has revolutionised modern healthcare are explained below:

Social media refers to multiple internet-based tools that enable people to connect in the blink of an eye. Hence, in this age where the world is rapidly evolving to become an interconnected ‘global village’ through the World Wide Web – healthcare providers, government, and healthcare agencies are increasingly interested in using social media’s powers to convey healthcare-related information. Whether this information is precautions against a specific disease or general health services like efficient patient management.

  • Information provision – Social media provides a mountain of information relating to health and healthcare, in many forms such as website blogs, social networking sites, forums, and similar platforms.
  • Connection and Health Promotion – Healthcare providers and professionals, can easily connect with a mass population, promote health, provide essential even life-saving information and resources, and educate the people on health matters through social media.
  • Provides for social experience – Social media offers a forum for reporting personal experiences, asking questions, and receiving direct feedback for people living with a disease.
  • Due to the large percentage of the population using social media, healthcare professionals can reach vast amounts of people. It has become effortless for the concerned professionals to reach the required people.
  • Medical education is never-ending, so physicians can read scholarly articles, web blogs related to healthcare service, or consult their colleagues on a specific patient, all on social media communities created explicitly for this purpose.

 What are the most popular types of social media?

Facebook

A  social networking website allows you to connect with others (Facebook friends) communicate through messages and join common-interest groups or sites.

YouTube

A platform that allows for viewing and sharing videos. An excellent tool for information, how-to videos, entertainment, or even studying education courses.

Twitter

Described as a micro-blogging site, providing users with the ability to communicate with each other and share information through short 140-character messages, known as Tweets!

LinkedIn

A  business-oriented platform where people share information, credentials and professional success and build professional networks.

Wikipedia

A free online encyclopaedia. One of the best sources of online knowledge, but it can also be a source of misinformation.

WhatsApp Messenger

A free mobile messaging app where you can send and receive messages. You can create groups, send each other images, video, and audio media messages.

What is the single most popular type of social media used by people for health-related issues?

The most common type of social media use by patients for health-related reasons found in a research study (1) was social support.

Social support is defined as “the process of interaction in relationships which is intended to improve coping, esteem, belonging, and competence through actual or perceived exchanges of psychosocial resources“. (1)

Are there any negatives to using social media in healthcare?

Social media can improve or enhance professional networking, health education, organisational promotion, patient care, patient education, and public health programmes. However, there are potential risks to patients and healthcare professionals regarding the distribution of poor-quality information, damage to a professional image, breaches of patient privacy, violation of personal–professional boundaries, and legal issues.

What are the key uses of social media in healthcare?

  • Professional Networking
  • Professional Education
  • Organisational Promotion
  • Patient Care and Patient Education
  • Global Public Health Programs

The challenges of Social Media in Healthcare

To minimise the risks involved in social media, robust guidelines and policies within the service providers should outline the necessary safety and legal issues to safeguard the service/professional’s reputation, the safety of the using patient and the good governance helps keep everyone involved safe.

Doctor-Patient relationship

Another rapidly growing use of social media in the healthcare field is the doctor-patient relationship. In this age, every second person is connected to a social account of his or her own. Doctors can efficiently connect and reach out to their patients to do follow-up checks after providing treatment. In this way, the doctor cannot assess the patient’s condition and how the patient responds to the treatment. The patient also develops increased confidence in the treatment being given to him or her.

Independent research has found that doctors are more approving of using social media to provide healthcare services than other healthcare professionals such as pharmacists. A survey conducted by QuantaMD; a social media analytics site discovered that about 65 per cent of all the doctors using social media services use them for professional purposes. [2]

Conclusion

Like everything else, social media can carry potential challenges and risks, however, seeing the potential of how this rapid method of communication can bring people virtually closer in the blink of an eye may revolutionise the modern healthcare systems if used correctly. Social support is indeed captured in the literature as a key reason patients use social media, however, medical professionals and healthcare workers can also benefit for its use if used correctly, with ethical command and in a confidential respectful method.

Sources

 

  1. Social media use in healthcare: A systematic review of …. https://bmchealthservres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12913-016-1691-0
  2. https://www.statista.com/statistics/507405/uk-active-social-media-and-mobile-social-media-users/#:~:text=The%20United%20Kingdom%20(UK)%20was,the%20population%20of%20the%20UK. HYPERLINK “https://www.statista.com/statistics/507405/uk-active-social-media-and-mobile-social-media-users/#:~:text=The%20United%20Kingdom%20(UK)%20was,the%20population%20of%20the%20UK.&text=The%20level%20of%20social,puts%20it%2018th%20overall%20worldwide”& HYPERLINK “https://www.statista.com/statistics/507405/uk-active-social-media-and-mobile-social-media-users/#:~:text=The%20United%20Kingdom%20(UK)%20was,the%20population%20of%20the%20UK.&text=The%20level%20of%20social,puts%20it%2018th%20overall%20worldwide”text=The%20level%20of%20social,puts%20it%2018th%20overall%20worldwide

 

 

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