Healthcare and Social Media: Impact, Issues and Governance

The radical global growth in information and communications technology has given rise to the number of internet users who account for 37% of the world’s total population according to ‘Internet World Statistics’.

With this growth, burgeoning use of social media has also increased which includes collaborative projects such as Wikipedia, blogs and content communities such as Twitter and YouTube, and social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

The world has seen the influence of social media on global political and community initiatives which has lead to its widespread recognition and use.

Social media has also influenced the healthcare industry and has widespread implications for its stakeholders. The World Health Organization has pages on social networking websites which share information regarding disease patterns and potential epidemics to its global followers.


Like other industries, social media has had an astounding impact on healthcare. Consumers can now express concerns or share information with healthcare professionals or other consumers through social networking websites. Through social networks, blogs, forums and communities, healthcare providers and consumers can communicate their issues and get immediate responses. According to research, 30% of adults in the U.S have been found to have received help through information found on the internet.

Indeed, social media has spread like wildfire and its outreach has influenced even the busiest individuals such as healthcare professionals. Providers and nurses have the opportunity to stay up-to-date with recent developments in the healthcare industry. Care providers professionals can now interact with others in the industry and share ideas and experiences.

Use of Social Media in healthcare has updated the way patients and care providers can connect. Ramona Nelson, co-author of a book explaining the impact of social media on healthcare states, “Patients are becoming our colleagues. It’s changing relationships and the kinds of questions and services a patient asks for.”


Increased use of social media has provided a new platform where the healthcare community can interact and interconnect, but it has brought with it several risks as well.

Healthcare providers are worried about the credibility of content being shared and used on social media . Since information is shared at such a rapid pace, moderation of healthcare related content is very important so that inaccurate information such as rumors about spreading diseases are dispelled as quickly as possible.

When people are sharing healthcare information on unmonitored social media websites, there is high risk of someone sharing private and confidential company information. This can be done deliberately or by mistake, nevertheless causing significant damage to providers, patients and the company. Such issues usually involve employees sharing confidential information about patients or the employer on social networks like Facebook or Twitter in the form of posts, comments or multimedia.

Other issues consist of disgruntled healthcare employees or patients trying to manipulate, bully and negatively criticize their employers or patients. Such occurrences not only pose risks to the individuals involved in unethical behavior which might lead to divorce with their employers, but also a threat to healthcare organizations who may find their reputation tarnished in the industry.


It must not be forgotten that healthcare professionals are responsible for the confidentiality of patient health information and company privacy laws, which is why the industry leaders in collaboration with regulatory bodies should develop, educate and implement stringent policies regarding healthcare information so that the risks posed by free and open information sharing platforms are minimized. The Royal College of General Practitioners in the United Kingdom recently developed the ‘Social Media Highway Code’ for its GPs to ensure that they meet their professional obligations and protect patient health information.

It is clear to see the vast benefits that the healthcare industry can utilize through responsible usage of social media. The most important thing now is for regulations such as HIPAA and HITECH to include and implement stringent rules governing the use of social media in order to protect all parties involved.



mHealthcare the Future is Here

Some while back, I came across the float mobile learning info-graphic;Mobile Healthcare - EMR their research was based on the impact, opportunity and the anticipated growth in the mobile Healthcare industry; and I must say that the numbers were convincing enough for you to call your broker and toss your penny in the basket before it’s full. The article by Float mobile learning titled “Is mHealth poised to explode?” misses one crucial point though, which is “adaptability”.

Over the last few years, the healthcare IT sector has flourished exponentially; it is one of the rapidly growing industries in today’s recession stricken economy. However, despite the massive growth, one obvious fact remains; products like Electronic Medical Records despite being developed commercially since the 1990s, did not gain popularity until much later. Doctors, generally have been slow in adapting to the change in terms of practice and even though Mobile Healthcare is likely to shape the future of healthcare delivery, we might still be here a couple of years from now, contemplating the inevitable.

EMR - Electronic Medical Records

Optimism is there though, with developers and vendors highly positive about returns for their investment. Many argue that the momentum brought on by the government’s backing of the healthcare IT can be utilized to push technology while providers feel more vulnerable to change. However, this does not justify vendors by pushing immature applications as complete products for quick bucks. Although true mobile applications are still limited, the increased competition and limited resources has resulted in many vendors simply porting their existing products while branding them mobile specific, much to the dismay of excited users.

Most providers believe in the concept of demand driven change. They believe that it’s not the healthcare community but instead the end consumers (patients), who would be pivotal in driving a change of this sort.

A report by GSMA suggests that the mHealthcare market for deviceMobile Healthcare - EMR manufacturers is expected to grow to $6.6 billion globally; where as expected growth for content and application providers is $2.6 billion where it is expected to reach $2.4 billion by 2017. The US healthcare would account for $5.9 billion in the total market size. Combined with the statistics of the float mobile learning research analysis, it can be argued that we might not be that far away from witnessing the evolution of the healthcare industry. A significant majority of physicians and patients admitting their interest in Mobile Healthcare and with tens of thousands of medical software and applications already available, there is no denying that the mHealthcare industry has the potential to become a huge force in the near future.