Social media in healthcare

Social media has had a significant impact on our lives. I receive updates every 5 minutes about a colleague or a friend checking in at work, having lunch, coffee or having found a rock that looks like a turtle. Our upcoming generation is even more comfortable with the concept of social media and information sharing. In a report last year, almost 87% of physicians were reported to be using social media for personal use while almost 67% admitted using it professionally. An industry expert pointed out that social media is slowly removing inhibitions and privacy concerns.“People are more open now. They understand the advantages of healthcare technology and are keen on digital communication. You would find them more willing to use web portals, receive online consultations or manage their health records”, he says.

This change in the behavioral pattern has in fact helped pave the way for innovative health IT projects such as such as Consult a Doctor (telemedicine project). In a recent discussion on connected care, a colleague suggested a Facebook themed health networking site, whereby patients could connect, interact and share medical advice. The idea posed several problems initially, but it did not seem too far-fetched since most people are actively sharing information online anyway, including visitation experiences and doctor ratings.

Social media removes the physical boundaries and enhances communication. Developments in technology have only furthered this cause. According to research by Float mobile learning, 80% of physicians and medical personnel were likely to own a smart phone or a connected mobile device, which provides them with instant access to social media forums.

QuantiaMD surveyed 4,032 physicians last year on social media use. Mary Modahl, the CCO at QuantiaMD, said that when it came to professional use of social media there are two categories, provider to patient and provider to provider. She explained that in terms of activity the latter carries more significance. This is because doctors were likely to use private social networks to interact with each other. A majority of physicians regularly consult their colleagues for professional advice. “The first step I took was to visit the AAD forums and look around for EMR reviews. I followed up with a couple of practitioners that I knew professionally or had interacted with before. I also messaged a few to inquire about which EMR they were using”, says one physician.

The health IT industry has a similar goal in regards to EMR interoperability and Health Information Exchange. By establishing a network which connects everyone in the care continuum including providers, patients, labs and pharmacies, we can achieve new grounds for efficient care delivery. The security and safety of patient information are major concerns, but there is much optimism surrounding the concept of connected care. “It is not that everyone is heavily invested in this, but it is because people believe that this would work. They believe in care reform.”

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