In 2009, Google launched its Flu Tracker application to map the spread of infectious disease by monitoring search keywords by geography. More recently, researchers at Johns Hopkins claimed that they could track the spread of the flu using Twitter significantly faster than the CDC could predict. Its like the town crier amplified by a million. Individually, there have been examples of doctors learning more about their patients on social media that has lead to either diagnosis, or follow-up visits. In previous posts we explored how social media can play a role in recovery for patients. Now, we’ll take a look at social media for healthcare professionals.
Ways in which healthcare practitioners can benefit from social media:
- Research. There is a ton of information being shared through social media, including studies that might be otherwise hard to find. Did you know there’s a Twitter hashtag where you can ask for a publication? If someone in your network has a copy that is allowed to be shared, you can usually find it. #icanhazpdf
- Connect with your peers. There are people from all over the world participating in conversations about treatments and best practices.
- Connect with your clients and potential clients. Social media is an easy, and inexpensive marketing and patient engagement tool.
A few simple Do’s and Don’ts for healthcare practitioners for engaging on social media:
- Do: Use social media to build your reputation and practice. Can patients and potential patients find you on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn? Can patients who love you easily recommend your services? The Mayo clinic offers a course in social media for healthcare practitioners. They also monitor which social media sites are used by healthcare organizations.
- Do: Use social media to research, connect with your peers, and spread best practices. Did you know that there’s a weekly Twitter chat where physical therapists discuss business issues related to their profession? Tune in to #solvePT at 9PM EST to see what it’s about.
- Do: Take advantage of the immediacy of social media. Jointworks Chiropractics, for example, uses Twitter to fill last-minute cancellations.
- Do: Start slowly. Managing social media can take a lot of time. Make sure you know how you want to participate. Start by watching what similar practices or people are doing.
- Do: Keep learning. The methods of communication are changing constantly and are going to keep evolving.
- Don’t: Ever share patient identifiable information on social media. If you learn something helpful about a patient on social media, follow up privately. An individual can share whatever they like about their health, but you cannot, so even if they post something on your Facebook page, you still need to answer privately. Even email may not be private enough for HIPAA standards. All communication needs to be encrypted.
- Don’t: Share information about yourself on public networks that you wouldn’t want patients or colleagues to know
- Don’t: Criticize patients on social media. Yes, they can rate you and criticize you, but it doesn’t go both ways.
- Don’t: Be afraid to show some of your personality. It will help patients connect with you and you might have more effective visits.
- Don’t: Underestimate the impact that social media has and will have on health.
If you’re interested in this topic, here are a few additional articles you might want to take a look at.
Should Doctors and Patients Be Friends? from the Wall Street Journal
A survey of physicians last May by Epocrates inc., which develops medical reference apps for physicians, found that 82% were using social networks to engage with other physicians, while just 8% were doing so with patients.
Teenagers, Social Media, and Health Information Privacy from ihealthbeat.org
Teens “do not seem to associate their personal identity with their diagnosis. They identify who they are by their friends, school, interests, etc. It is in this context that some of them mentioned that they don’t talk about their diagnosis or treatment on Facebook because they don’t want to be perceived as ‘attention-seekers,
The logic is a simple one: Everyone on Facebook, all 1 billion-plus people, will have an illness at some point in their lives. And, as Facebook’s social creatures are in the habit of doing, that mass of people will share their experience battling disease, ask questions of their friends, and field advice from outsiders