Technology, media and the internet has been having a huge impact in our lives since a long time now. But the sudden rise in social media usage has brought in much better and more advanced opportunities to business, marketing and general public awareness. The popularity of social media continues to increase and demographics show that the most growing users of social media are individuals aged 45-54.
Gone are the days when healthcare could only be provided through a practitioner by seeing them face-to-face. Physicians and health care practitioners can utilize social media to provide surplus information to other professionals in the industry in the form of research and awareness, as well as to patients who are seeking medical help.
Social media offers medical practitioners with tools to share more information, to discuss health care policies, to promote health awareness, to communicate with the public and to connect with patients, caregivers, students, and colleagues.
Patients can also rely on social media for moral and financial support from throughout the world in difficult times and can access information related to their health problems and learn about other patient experiences. In short, social media can serve as an effective means of communication for healthcare providers and patients.
Here are a few ways social media can prove to be beneficial in healthcare:
Social media has proved to be an extremely effective tool in times of crisis by providing information to consumers instantly. Hospitals and other healthcare organizations can easily update on hospital capacity, operation statuses and emergency room access through social media networks during natural disasters or disease outbreaks. A great example would be the time when a natural disaster had hit Japan in 2011. Twitter was actively utilized by doctors to update ill patients. Also, in 2009, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention used social media networks to educate people about the H1N1 virus.
In addition to this, social media also lets healthcare professionals pass along information released by organizations such as the Red Cross, WHO, CDC or maybe even interact with television channels.
A recent Zika virus outbreak that originated from Central and South America and the Caribbean, is a mosquito transmitted virus that posed a huge challenge to health care providers in minimizing its spread. Healthcare organizations and practitioners faced a set of unique challenges as this was a lesser known disease.
It was vital to build awareness and preventive knowledge among health care practitioners and to the general public, including civilians residing in rural and remote areas. They needed to reduce the spread of misinformation related to treatment, risk factors and prevention.
Major health care authorities like CDC and WHO turned to social media networks like Twitter and Facebook to confront these challenges. They succeeded in rapidly communicating accurate health information to both the health care community and the public in general.
General Awareness and Medical Information
People have started using the internet as a means to diagnose themselves and seek help. While all the available information might not always be authentic, most of it still provides awareness to health problems because of which people rush to seek treatment before it’s too late.
Social media provides a prodigious opportunity for healthcare organizations to raise awareness about most sought-after health problems like diabetes, cardiac diseases, allergies and geriatric medicine. By broadcasting information that is fact-based and applicable, healthcare organizations can upgrade general health and well-being by providing effective precautionary measures and better lifestyle choices.
Patients who are looking for healthcare can search on social media for information on doctors, hospitals and specialists. Previous patients can provide reviews about their experiences and services on social media. All this knowledge can help you choose the right provider and care location.
Extensive reach by the practitioner
Social media is a great tool to widen your reach and expand your practice as a health care practitioner. A local doctor in a remote rural area may come across a patient with an unusual set of symptoms and may require the opinion of a specialist as soon as possible. Social media can serve as an effective way to communicate for physicians not only to expand their knowledge but also their professional medical network beyond geographical borders.
Doctors can share their researches and experiences and work collectively by accessing medical journals and scholarly articles through social media. It all comes down to making patient care more efficient.
An important thing to keep in mind is that if social media is not used with good judgment and under legal considerations, it can turn out to be a great threat to the practitioners credibility. The physician needs to be aware of their establishments rules for social media and also the current legal regulations before posting anything.
The whole idea of social media is to connect with people. When someone is going through a difficult time of disease, just knowing that there are a lot of people out there who have gone through the same or are experiencing the same problems, provides emotional support to the patient. Social support has been known to show positive health outcomes, with some studies showing that patient’s compliance and general health is enhanced when they get support from family and peers.
Social media networks offers forums for users to help clarify doubts and questions that are answered to them by peers or professionals. Many online campaigns have risen through social media and proven to be a huge success. Issues like smoking cessation and weight loss journeys have motivated people across the world through social media platforms to better lifestyle choices.
In addition to that, hashtag campaigns on twitter and facebook for organ donations and fund raisings have helped people go through treatments that wouldn’t have been possible without social media networks.
Furthermore, social media helps in opening conversations about mental health issues and sexually transmitted diseases which help to reduce the stigma of suffering from such medical conditions, as people with such diseases are usually driven out of fear and left to isolation.
Social media sites can be effectively used for medical marketing and as a promotional platform at a lesser cost compared to other forms of media. They give a cost effective opportunity for monitoring and dispensing healthcare services.
Studies reveal that social media influences the image and visibility of a medical organization or hospital. A study showed that 57% of consumers were influenced by hospital’s social media presence and chose those organizations to receive health care. The strong social media image of the hospital appealed to 81% of consumers as as organization that offers cutting-edge technologies.