Social Media and Medical Professionals:Day 1(A 2 days series)

26 March, 2018

As social media use in the country continues to grow, physicians are realizing how valuable a tool. For healthcare professionals, social media is like a double-edged sword as it is an opportunity to connect with potential and existing patients, disseminate general health information, advertise their services, seek professional advice and professional opportunities.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND HEALTHCARE

 
The term ‘social media’ generally refers to Internet-based tools that allow individuals and communities to gather and communicate; to share information, ideas, personal messages, images, and other content; and, in some cases, to collaborate with other users in real time. It can be used for both personal and professional purposes.
They may include blogs, social networks, video- and photo-sharing sites, wikis, or a myriad of other media, which can be grouped by purpose, serving functions such as:

  • Social networking
  • Professional networking
  • Media sharing
  • Content blogs
  • Knowledge/information aggregation
  • Virtual reality and gaming environments

There is growing debate about whether the medical profession should play a role in using social media to communicate more effectively with individual patients and the patient community at large. The reality is that individual doctors and medical organizations have to consciously decide if, why and how to use the various social media platforms. While use of social media could potentially increase the exposure of physicians to disciplinary and medico-legal issues, those physicians who choose to use social media can help shape how these tools can improve health care in the future.

Exact numbers vary, but most studies indicate that Internet usage by physicians now exceeds 80%. Physicians use social media for personal interactions as well as professional communication and research.
 
Approximately 1% of healthcare professionals using social media are creating blogs, forums, and information-sharing websites that provide information to ePatients and other healthcare professionals.
 
Another 9% engage with others on social media by commenting on posts and participating in group discussions or online chats and sharing useful information or links with followers or other members of an online community.
 
Finally, 90% of physicians are social media consumers who use the Internet and social media to find and read relevant information related to their patients and practice.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND PATIENTS

It is undeniable that the internet and social media platforms have become an integral part of how patients and members of the public seek information about health and increase the sense of engagement patients have in their own care. Through a variety of websites and fueled by the growing availability of electronic patient health records, patients are increasingly sharing information with other patients about their health conditions and their health care providers.

 

TOP REASONS PHYSICIANS DON’T USE SOCIAL MEDIA FOR PRACTICE MARKETING

Social media pose a challenge for physicians (and other professionals) in terms of separating one’s personal and professional lives. While such a separation is a fundamental tenet of the medical profession, social media blur such boundaries in ways that can enrich communications, but can also put physicians at risk.

 

Other reasons include:

  • Most physicians have joined the conversation online at some level. Nonetheless, concerns remain in the healthcare community and the foremost among these concerns are the physician’s ethical and legal obligations
  • Because a misstatement on social media can spread quickly through social sharing, some physicians are reluctant to share information or opinions online. They may also avoid statements that appear to provide a diagnosis due to professional ethics standards
  • Additionally, privacy rules loom particularly large as a reason why physicians are cautious about engaging with individual patients

 

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF HAVING A SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE FOR PHYSICIANS?

Social media is unique in that it allows for two-way communication online between creators and consumers of information. Thus, social media may be an ideal platform for mass health communication as well as the potential for addressing specific queries by individuals.

A systematic review identified seven key uses of social media for health communication:

  1. Provide health information on a range of conditions
  2. provide answers to medical questions
  3. facilitate dialogue patient-to-patient and patient-to-health professional
  4. collect data on patient experiences and opinions
  5. health intervention, health promotion and health education
  6. reduce illness stigma
  7. provide online consultations

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