How Effective is Social Media in Healthcare?

Posted by MiaBee on March 12th, 2019

According to one survey, almost half of respondents take into account a message elicited from social media when they decide how to deal with their own health. This rough statistics are quite illustrative and without even going into detail, it is clear that social media is an important player in the field of healthcare nowadays. For this reason, it is worth to consider the exact ways it shapes human minds and decisions in that direction and whether it is an effective tool as far as wellness is concerned.

       One aspect that should be discussed when speaking about the role of social media is that its influence varies highly from older generation to younger. It is quite natural that the society undergoes a significant transformation related to computer technologies. While the pace might be too high for older generations who need time to get used to innovation, there is a whole generation who do not remember life without Internet. This is why the level of trust to social media is much higher among younger people aged 18 to 24, in contrast to older respondents who cling to more traditional sources of information (yet they cannot avoid the influence of social media either). The statistics are striking: “90% of respondents from 18 to 24 years of age said they would trust medical information shared by others on their social media networks” (Honigman, 2013). There is an important conclusion to be made from these figures, which refer not only to health matters but to change of mentality. People tend to develop a special sense of connectedness, which is based on trust and free information sharing, in which both strong and weak connection play an important role. Besides, it means that new opportunities for online health advice centers are open, as experts from worldwide can unite for the sake of creating a unique and flexible body that shares information and consulting services with people located anywhere on the globe.

       There are a few other ways in which social media can be helpful in healthcare, as an expert states: “social media can provide a means for better patient and community engagement; it offers a way to share information on topics like insurance and billing; it can help with staff recruiting and possibly even early diagnosis and treatment” (Afshar, 2014). Thus, it is important to remark that social networks can be helpful not only for providing better service and informing people about recent trends in medicine, but also for establishing better communication and knowledge sharing within the medical community itself. It is worth noting that different platforms can be helpful for different goals and ways of sharing data, some of them being more informal and some being more helpful for professional communication. As David Chou - CIO UMMC, remarks, "Then something called LinkedIn arrived," says David, "and it became the platform for connecting on a professional level with peers, counterparts, and senior leaders of an organization" (Afshar, 2014). Besides, LinkedIn is especially applicable in recruiting services, as it helps both a seeker and an employer get access to the relevant information on qualifications and level of trustworthiness. Besides, the tool of gathering professional references from peers, former employers and customers is a tool that makes LinkedIn highly effective in improving the level of informing about healthcare issues and innovations. It is also remarked that over 30 percent of medical professionals use social media tools in order to facilitate their daily routine activities, which means that trust to social media, in the first place, grows based on initiative from healthcare people.

       When discussing more statistics from what Brian Honigman provides in his article, it should be mentioned that “41% of people said social media would affect their choice of a specific doctor, hospital, or medical facility” (2013). This fact makes us draw several conclusions about the effectiveness of social media. First of all, it is impossible to ignore the idea that today it is practically impossible to represent one’s medical institution as an authoritative one without presence in social media. While several years ago it was important to have an impressive website providing sufficient information on the clinic and service, it is not enough today. Society demands more openness and interaction from any organization, and having no feedback in social media is estimated as closeness and absence of flexibility. People want to be informed quickly and with attention to their individual situation, not just be given general guideless. Hence, it is quite clear that nowadays it is important for any healthcare organization to have their representation in social media because it makes their message more effective.

       It is also interesting to observe the trend how healthcare gadgets and applications implant healthcare naturally into people’s lifestyles. The newest trend is to have mobile phone applications, which also include using social media more easily and from any place. Thus, it is important to understand that while social media is effective in shaping people’s mind and actions, there should be a two-way initiative. Social media should not only be commercial instrument for promoting organizations or charity programs but they should be used on the state level as well. It is essential for governmental initiatives to use the most effective media tools to reach their audience because healthcare today is not only about physical participation but also about promotion of messages. Further on, it is also important to observe how public mentality is changing and how social networks allow people be more open about health issues. As statistics demonstrates, “30% of adults are likely to share information about their health on social media sites with other patients, 47% with doctors, 43% with hospitals, 38% with a health insurance company and 32% with a drug company” (Honigman, 2013). These figures show to what extent people are ready to trust social media on health issues and can be estimated as quite high. As the researcher justly remarks, people demonstrate readiness for high transparency nowadays, and social media are a perfect tool to comfortably combine openness and expertise. It is also true that transparency and availability of information is also a benefit for medical professionals who get access to a wider range of instruments, and hence grow their own level of competence.

       To sum up, social media is an effective tool both for medical professionals and the public because they help share knowledge and recent trends in the field. It is helpful for experts who can access newest data from worldwide and consult their peers about health issues, so it is a dynamic pool of knowledge and highly efficient community. Besides, research shows that people, especially younger generation, have a high level of trust to online communication, including social media. This means that it became essential for medical organizations to use the potential of social media as the resource which can deliver their message to the audience. The demand for interactivity and speed, as well as individual feedback, makes its essential for any institution to be represented in social media.

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Also See: Social Media, Medical Professionals, Social Networks, Recent Trends, Social, Media, Healthcare
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