It is estimated that by 2018 there will be almost 2.5 billion people using social networks, up from under 1 million (970,000) in 2010, and it just keeps growing. As we move forward, social media is no longer just an option for businesses. Much like paying for a listing or an ad in the yellow pages was once a necessity, today, marketing without the inclusion of social media is no longer an option.
In today’s world, social media is used in every part of our lives. Our personal relationships are fostered online, while some are even formed online first. Social media is used for entertainment, at work and is a big part of business in general. But – social media hasn’t reached every part of our lives… yet.
One area that hasn’t embraced social media as readily as others is health care. There are many factors to consider when looking at the delays of social media in the health care profession. First, fear and lack of knowledge about social media can definitely have an impact in a field where tradition, proven methods and standards are the guiding factors. Secondly, and perhaps even more importantly, doctors and surgeons have most likely been hesitant to jump on board due to potential liability issues.
But, knowing that when patients are engaged in the own healthcare, outcomes improve, has ensured that some physicians are leading the charge and pioneering how social media can be used in the medical fields.
So what can we expect in the future?
A quick search of the internet shows us that although telemedicine and virtual doctor visits are already happening in places around the globe, it is predicted that they will become mainstream. The reality is, limited access to health practitioners is making the need for virtual health care communication a necessity.
Joe Pavia, of CTV News Kitchener, reported that, although the number of people in Waterloo Region seeking a family doctor has declined in the last few years, “it’s the increase in the number of doctors who are retiring that concerns Ian McLean”, president of the Greater KW Chamber of Commerce. Without an influx of young doctors to our region, we are going to find ourselves right back in the same place we were just a few short years ago.
Maybe social media is the answer to physician shortages. Talk appointments, and non-emergency cases can been dealt with virtually, freeing up time and space at local clinics.
While we can all see the benefits of social media in the medical profession, like helping official agencies and experts share important information quickly (ie: disease outbreaks), it also has a downside. Social media is also a platform for non-experts to share misinformation and promote fear just as rapidly. We already know that you can’t believe everything you read on social media. If it’s inclusion in patient assessment, treatment and follow up is going to work, health agencies will need to have plans in place to counter misinformation shared via social media.
Lessons for Others
Social media is going to become an extension of the doctor-patient relationship. However, because of its very limited use in the industry right now, the sky is limit in terms of what we might see. When looking at expanding into an new area, using new technologies, one must have contingency plans in place for things that may go wrong. Be courageous, but be equally cautious.
Medical Field in General
Name of Organization Contact: N/A
Authored by: Carey Brooks
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Guzman, Alejandra ( 2016, April 7). 6 Ways Social Media is Changing the World. Retrieved from from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/04/6-ways-social-media-is-changing-the-world/
Pavia, Joe (2017, January 22). Bringing Young Doctors to Waterloo Region Necessary as older ones retire. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/kitchener-waterloo/doctors-task-force-kitchener-waterloo-cambridge-1.3943361
Belbey, Joanna (2016) Is Social Media the Future of Healthcare? Retrieved from https://www.tracx.com/resources/blog/is-social-media-the-future-of-healthcare/