Social media is a medium that is becoming more widely adopted in the healthcare setting. However, the healthcare industry is notoriously known for being slow to adopt technology and adoption of social media is no exception. Compared to other industries and general use of social media, social media in the healthcare setting sparks more controversy and has more barriers to widespread adoption.
Benefits of Social Media in Healthcare [1,2]:
Proponents of social media in the healthcare setting point to the ability to facilitate communication between healthcare providers and patients. Social media often increases the speed of communication between providers and patients through instant messaging via secure patient portals or web based EHR platforms. One example of a company that has been successful utilizing social media and tools such as instant messaging and secure patient-provider email communication is Brooklyn based company: HelloHealth.
Social media tools also allow health information to be distributed to a wider audience of patients in a shorter period of time compared to one on one communication. For example, physicians may post health care information on various social medical environments including blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. Clinical providers are also starting to utilize social media as marketing tools for their practices.
Social media also has benefits in patient-to-patient and provider-to-provider communication. For example, patients are finding support for dealing with certain diseases through social medial sites. Companies such as PatientsLikeMe allow patients to form support groups online and share experiences with patients that have similar diseases. Physicians are able to interact with each other and obtain useful information through social media sites. For example, one company, Sermo, allows physicians to have online discussions and consultations about different clinical and healthcare related topics. Other platforms such as Wikipedia allow the exchange of information among healthcare professionals in different categories. For example, there is a “wiki” for professionals interested in clinical informatics topics (www.clinfowiki.org).
Barriers to Social Media in Healthcare [1,2]:
Despite potential benefits, there are still barriers to widespread of adoption of social media in healthcare. An important common concern is the ability to protect patient privacy and secure patient health information using social media as a communication tool. Many also point to the need of establishing standards and regulatory guidelines for the use of social media in some aspects of healthcare. Some providers are slow to adopt social media in their practices believing that it may blur the lines of professional boundaries or that it is too time consuming or costly. Although, some proponents would argue that social media can often save providers time and offer a good return on investment.
Despite some of the concerns and barriers, social media in healthcare continues to achieve wider adoption. An example is shown by The Mayo Clinic recently establishing a Center for Social Media with over 60,000 followers on Twitter and 20,000 connections of Facebook2. This center illustrates an important point that patients have a demand for the use of social media in their healthcare. This patient demand may serve as the impetus for continued future adoption of social media in healthcare.
1. Hawn, Carleen. Take two aspirin and tweet me in the morning: how Twitter, Facebook, and other social media are reshaping health care. Health Affairs, 28, no.2 2009: 361-368
2. Topol, Eric. The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Healthcare. Basic Books. New York. Jan 2012.
Submitted by (Darius Clarke,MD)