HIMMS16 and the Healthcare’s Profession’s Changing View of Social Media

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In my last blog on Linked Pulse `Improving Healthcare Provision – the Lessons of Social Media` I suggested that many of the characteristics of social media, and the fact that the general population have become very used to the technology and format, made it ideal for meeting some of the pressing challenges that health systems face – particularly in primary care.

The article has generated a lot of interest and discussion around the applicability of social media and social media-inspired approaches to healthcare.  In all of this I think one fact is inescapable – social media is a juggernaut that has already re-shaped out lives and will continue to do so.

But particularly in the run-up to a show and conference as important as HIMMS 16 in Las Vegas, to assume that healthcare is a niche that is immune from its effects, or is incapable of being improved by learning from it, seems about as realistic or desirable as King Canute being able to stop the tide coming in by the mere authority inherent in Kingship.

Affecting the way most deal with their health

We already have generations that are more likely to go online to answer general health questions then ask a doctor and studies that show nearly half of the population in general claim that information found using social media affects the way they deal with their health.

So things in healthcare are changing as far as the patients are concerned but also – and much less reported – the healthcare profession is changing its view of social media as a being useful in everyday work. And I think this a portent of things to come

Recent US research from Demi & Cooper Advertising and DC Interactive Group revealed that 60 per cent of doctors say social media improves the quality of care delivered to patient.

That’s a pretty big endorsement of the role social media – and, of course, the smartphone which is the preferred method of access to social media – can play in improving the effectiveness of healthcare and has profound implications for providers and payers.

Improving professionalism

And behind the scenes there is evidence that healthcare professionals are buying into the idea that social media may help improve their professionalism. Research from EMR Thoughts revealed two thirds of doctors are using social media for professional purposes, often preferring engaging in an open forum in preference to a physician-only online community.

Could it be that a certain level of transparency spurred by social media is becoming accepted, not to say deemed to be advantageous in the medical profession, and that healthcare professionals are behaving just like the rest of us whatever our chosen line of work?

And there is plenty of evidence to say that they are. MedTech Media points out that 31 per cent of health care professionals use social media for professional networking whilst some studies show the most popular activity on social media for physicians is following what colleagues are sharing and discussing.

That appears to be pretty much in accord with what their patients want as, according to Mediabistro, 54 per cent are very comfortable with their providers seeking advice from online communities to better treat their conditions.

Influencing choice

And there are many more reasons why healthcare professionals are seeing the sense in engaging with social media.  Infographics Archive points out that 60 per cent of social media users are the most likely to trust social media posts and activity by doctors over any other group, giving doctors the opportunity to increase their reach and influence and do good in the process.

And there are implications for the planning of healthcare provisions with more Demi & Cooper Advertising and DC Interactive data showing 41 per cent of people claiming social media would affect their choice of a specific doctor, hospital, or medical facility.

Changing patient mind-set

And if we are to get any better indication of the patient mind-set change that social media is producing Fluency Media recently found that, already, 30 per cent of adults are likely to share information about their health on social media sites with other patients compared to 47 per cent with doctors, 43 per cent with hospitals, 38 per cent with a health insurance company and 32 per cent with a drug company.

The figures that support evidence of inexorable change are endless but, I believe, it’d be a mistake to currently confuse the core expertise of medical knowledge with the context in which it is practiced. But where choice is available, the latter is certainly changing rapidly.

Medicine is a social activity

How long it takes to start infiltrating the core of medical thought is anyone’s guess. Medicine is a social activity that has to manage resources and respond in everything from basic research to primary provision to the demands of society and so has to be close coupled to social change.

If social media is already deemed by the medical profession to be improving the quality of care delivered to a patient it surely cannot be long before, for instance, research potential of social media itself changes healthcare practice along with the rest of our lives.


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