Social media has a profound impact on every aspect of our lives be it communication, travel or healthcare. Every industry is making use of social media, in some way or other and healthcare is no exception. Mobile phones and applications play a crucial role in our lives by allowing people to research symptoms, medications, doctors etc. Social media has become a major tool for sharing healthcare related information, including opinions on different therapies, reviews about doctors, people’s experiences with illness and many more. Internet provides plethora of health related information at our fingertips and many of that information is consumed through social media.
Impact of Social Media on Healthcare Providers
Healthcare providers are significantly benefitted by the social media. It helps them not only in social networking but also in patient education and information sharing. A number of practitioners have claimed that social media usage has helped them in their career advancement and staying updated about the latest findings and information. However, there are a few hindrances in this aspect too which include time requirements, employer backlash, fear of saying something wrong, and being unversed with the technology. Still social media is perceived as a tool for getting low-cost health information and as an opportunity to reach out to relevant communities. Some of the providers have also claimed that social media helps them improve the quality of healthcare. However, for healthcare providers too, social media is not risk free. Indulgence in social media should be in compliance with HIPAA regulations. Also, there could be legal as well as ethical issues for the usage of social media by healthcare providers.
How Social Media Impacts Patients
Social media has a significant impact on patients but the impact can be categorized as both positive and negative depending on how the patients process information. Social media could be an excellent source of information as well as a dangerous source of misinformation. Research suggests that text and video based information in social media can help in patient empowerment, building communities and patient engagement. However, there is no certainty about the quality of information which, on the other hand, increases the risk of patients being misinformed or misled. Studies have also observed the impact of social media on healthcare industry through patient influencers. Many people diagnosed with chronic diseases use social media for voicing their condition. The use of social media has led to the formation of virtual communities where patients and patient influencers can share their experiences. However, there is no way to guard authenticity of information and justified opinions.
Impact on Patient and Healthcare Provider Interactions
Social media also impacts the patient-provider relationship by offering opportunities for communication beyond the office setting. A study was conducted on adolescents having psychiatric illnesses which showed that social media helps in less anxiety-provoking communications, better monitoring and constant access to providers. Certain applications and websites also allow the patients to post the detailed account of their interactions and rate and review the physicians.
While the impact of social media on healthcare is evident, its wise usage is essential more than it is needed in any other industry. Healthcare industry is also gradually adapting to this trend, however, it’s important to understand the ways in which social media proves beneficial instead of detrimental.