The Digital Pandemic: Social Media and Healthcare

CP    November 27, 2017

Without doubt, the future of social media is growing, influential and ever-powerful. As the digital divide shrinks worldwide, more and more people are joining the billions of conversations taking place in the realm of social media.

Social media is the place to be. Whether you’re looking to keep in touch with friends, find the latest trends, or learn about what someone thinks, social media is where this is happening!

The world of social media is highly influential. People are turning to social media to learn about and get information on important topics, such as healthcare.

Traditionally, healthcare was something that people relied on healthcare professionals, such as doctors, to learn about. With the advent of the Internet, and more recently social media, people are using social media to learn about healthcare.

Social media has evolved beyond a platform used to share pictures and connect with friends. Social media is now a powerful influencer for healthcare and medical advice.


Intersting stats:

  • over 75% of Americans use social media to research symptoms
  • 90% of people aged 18 to 24 claim to trust medical info shared on their social feeds
  • 42% of people check a social media review site before choosing a healthcare provider or making other healthcare decisions

Researchers have found that information about health isn’t being shared to just start a conversation or because of interest, it is being shared because Millennials see social media as a trustworthy source for medical information.

For this reason, the future of social media is a great concern for many healthcare professionals. The spreading of inaccurate or false medical and healthcare information is very real. And what’s more, people are actually being influenced by the false information being spread on social media channels!

Of the many examples out there, arguably one of the most famous (and the most scientifically debunked) examples would be Jenny McCarthy’s belief that vaccines cause autism.

McCarthy used her celebrity status to influence her belief that the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine causes autism. This was subsequently debunked through two scientific research studies, however, information such as this is shared on social media on a daily basis and inaccurate information influences audiences around the world. Non-credible and non-academic sources of information are perpetuating false and inaccurate medical and scientific information at an alarming rate, and, people are buying into it none-the-wiser.

Interview with Jenny McCarthy on the television show “The Doctors”

I recently attended the Ontario Public Health Association’s Fall Forum Conference where Dr. Brittany Seymour was the keynote speaker at the public health conference. Dr. Seymour spoke about digital pandemics and how rapidly-spreading scientifically inaccurate information (i.e. fake news) impacts public health.

As a healthcare professional, one of Dr. Seymour’s interests and areas of study is digital public health communication and network science.

While I was unable to get an interview with Dr. Seymour, check out what she had to say about the digital pandemic of fake news:

To this end, we can be certain of what initiatives the future of social media will have for healthcare professionals. Social media will serve as a very important medium to influence people and provide accurate healthcare and medical information. In Ontario, we’ve seen a huge rise in healthcare organizations and professionals taking to social media to reach the public and to help combat false information. Public health campaigns are targeting audiences on social media. Healthcare professionals are creating videos and sharing them on social media channels. Hospitals and health centres are reaching patients on social media and providing valuable information, to mention a few examples.

The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States and the World Health Organization (WHO) are strongly encouraging healthcare leaders to use social media and to spread accurate health information. The WHO believes that being able to access health information quickly is important in creating positive healthcare outcomes.

Lessons for Others

Without a doubt, the future of healthcare will become a lot more engaging. As more and more people turn to social media, the spotlight is on healthcare professionals to help combat the digital pandemic of fake news.

When you’re on social media next, consider the consequences that fake news has. Before sharing a post about healthcare information, make sure it comes from a reliable and credible source.

Social media has a great deal of influence over people with and has great impacts on their lives. Healthcare providers and organizations must strive to successfully reach the masses on social media and be willing to embrace social media and use it effectively.

Organization: Public Health
Industry: Public Health
Name of Organization Contact: N/A

Authored by: CP

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.


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