Social Media is increasingly becoming engrained within people’s every-day lives. This change is especially important for the healthcare industry as it continues to evolve. While it is understandable that some doctors and healthcare companies would be hesitant to take to social media due to a perceived lack of guidelines for posting content, it is also important to recognize how the use of social media can greatly improve the doctor-patient relationship.
Use of social media helps patients to feel educated and empowered; it also promotes conversation between doctors and patients, as well as improving quality of care. While blogs and social media sites reach about 80% of the active online population in the US, only about 8% of doctors utilize social media to connect with their patients.
Social Media for Patients
Social media helps patients engage in education on health conditions, treatment options, and breaking news. According to a recent study, 72% of Internet users have searched for health information during the last year. Most users were specifically looking for user-generated content written by others with similar health conditions. Patients turn to social media to discuss specific health conditions, seek information on diseases, discuss treatment options with fellow patients, as well as offer comfort and advice during the treatment process.
This provides a great opportunity for physicians to engage in social media and participate in the discussion with patients. Not all medical content is credible and doctors can take this opening to help with patient education by providing credible sources for patients. Due to HIPAA regulations, it is ideal for physicians to connect to patients collectively, share perspective on breaking health news, and provide educational tools.
Social Media for Doctors
Physician engagement in social media not only promotes dialogue between doctors and patients, but it also improves quality of care as the conversation will no longer end once the doctor walks out of the room. Through social media, patients see an immediate improvement to care. Hospitals can post ER wait times, organizations such as the CDC can post about breaking health news such as disease outbreaks, and doctors can blog about medical studies while informing patients of their impact.
One of the largest benefits of physicians participating in social media is that it great increases the public’s trust of the health care system. More and more people are turning to social media as a news source rather than watching the evening news on television, if doctors are blogging or posting, they are also becoming a trustworthy source – especially to those in the 18-24 age range. Trust is increased because people’s feelings on transparency and authenticity are improved. When done properly and with consideration of patient privacy, physician engagement in social media serves to improve the doctor-patient relationship.