Facebook chatting the substituut for a doctor’s appointment?
Have you ever felt sick and googled your symptoms? You probably found that you were having a n incurable decease and would die within a short period of time. Soon this problem might be over. Thanks to the use of social media healthcare professionals and patients can be connected. Social media can be used for several goals. It can improve or enhance professional networking and education, organizational promotion but for (potential) patients it can improve care and education.
The use of the term social media refers to ‘Internet-based tools that allow individuals and communities to gather and communicate; to share information, ideas, personal messages, images and other content; and, in some cases, to collaborate with other users in real time.
For online interaction with patients is a growing interest. Some physiciants try to enhance the communication with patients by the use of social media. Twitter and Facebook are the main channels. A study found that approximately 60% of physicians were in favor of interacting with patients through social media fort the purpose of providing patient education, health monitoring, for encouraging behavioral changes and drug adherence. They hope that these efforts will result in ‘better education, increased compliance and better outcomes.’
If patients have contact with their physicians via social media this can result in a better awareness of the advice. It can increase the time spent communicating with patients and therefore answering more questions, improving patient satisfaction. In addition, social media can be used for reminders, scheduling appointments, diagnostic test results, prescription notifications and answering general questions.
Messaging can be used to improve doctor patient contact particularly focus on patients with chronic, rare or fatal diseases. It would also be beneficial for questions about maternal or infant care.
Next to patient care and communications, patient education can also be increased by the use of social media. The distribution of credible information has been proved to motivate observable behavioral changes within social networks. Patients could access these platforms for health care information and other educational resources. Via social media patients can join virtual communities, participate in research, receive financial or moral support, set goals and track personal progress.
Physicians can tweet, make blog posts, record videos and participate in discussion forums. All these channels provide opportunities to distribute evidence-based information to counter inaccurate material on the Internet. This will make sure we don’t find at every symptom we Google we might die.
Observational learning by social media can be used for health care purposes. Showing on Facebook profiles if someone is an organ-donor can stimulate other to do so as well. Donate Life America experienced a 23-fold surge in donor pledges the week after Facebook allowed users to post their organ-donor status in their profile.
Social media offers the potential to improve healthcare, especially patient care. Having more possibilities to ask questions and find researched-based information will result in a better understanding of the patient’s own disease and this without having to leave the house. But would you like to hear via Facebook whether or not you’re having a fatal disease?
Ventola, C.L., (2014) ‘Social media and health care professionals: Benefits, risks and best practices’ Pharmacy and Therapeutics, 39(7), pp. 491-499