Social media has changed the face of many industries in how they engage their audience. The healthcare industry has embraced this new form of communication to provide information in a regulated and transparent fashion. Now more than ever, doctors and hospitals are using Facebook, Twitter, wikis, and blogs to promote public health and wellbeing. For example, the Johns Hopkins Hospital Facebook has almost half a million likes. The following are reasons why this is such an important change to healthcare and why these changes are happening now.
People Are Comfortable Using Social Media to Get Answers
People, especially those from the younger generation, are frequently using social media and the internet to find answers to questions. They trust the people in their social circle and check MedMD or wikis for frequently asked medical questions. They also use social media get opinions on which doctor or hospitals to go to for treatment. It is important for hospitals and doctors to reach this audience in order to provide the correct medical information and to dispel medical myths.
Many of the larger hospitals have blogs in which they discuss common medical issues. For example, the Harvard Medical School has a blog discussing a range of health issues such as e-cigarettes, how to keep children hydrated during the summer, and the symptoms of arthritis. Putting all this information onto social media has made it easier for people to get health information from a reputable source.
Healthcare is enhanced by Social Media
Social media enables communication between a doctor and their patient in real time. This is extremely useful to serve as medical alerts and reminders, such as a reminder to take the flu shot before flu season hits. Some doctors use it to answer quick questions or to schedule appointments for their patients if email or phone is unavailable. It can also serve to promote healthy lifestyles to a broad range of people. You’ve probably seen fitness challenges being promoted on Facebook or Twitter.
In order to keep any electronic communication private, hospitals do not allow personal information to be made public. They are mandated by law to remain compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in accordance to the US Department of Health and Human Services. With the advent of social media, the healthcare industry is now incorporating all public social communications to be compliant with HIPPA.
Professional Advancement and Education through Online Communities
Healthcare professionals use social media and online forums to read articles, listen to experts, and keep up to date on the latest medical advances. These aspects of continued education are critical for them to perform their jobs and to grow as a professional. This is especially important for healthcare support personnel such as midwives and doulas, who have to rely more on online training rather enrolling in a curriculum offered by a traditional medical school. For example, many healthcare professionals undergo online doula training to advance their careers and become certified through the attendance of online classes and participation in online forums.
Networking is a huge part of participating in social media. Getting hired in the healthcare industry is usually through word of mouth, therefore social media is a great place to connect with potential employers and develop beneficial professional relationships.