Social Media and Healthcare: A Changing Relationship

social media and healthcare

Social Media and Healthcare: A Changing Relationship

Social media and healthcare once may have existed within separate spheres, but in today’s technological era, that is no longer the case. When patients encounter a health malady — whether it’s a sore throat, usual ache or pain, or a persistent headache, the first place they tend to look is Google. This isn’t always a bad thing; there is a wealth of great, credible information online about afflictions, at-home treatment plans, and additional courses of action.

However, changing times point toward a significant shift in the role of social media in healthcare; these spheres are becoming steadily more and more combined, creating a bubble in which medical professionals need to be aware of the questions people are asking online, the information they expect to receive, and the best way to manage potentially risky situations.

Here, we’ve outlined a series of points related to the changing relationship between social media and healthcare. Read on for more information!

The first course of action

While there are plenty of resources online for patients to gather more information about certain conditions, misinformation also exists that can potentially lead patients astray. For instance, in a story published MedPage Today, more than half of the information related to baby sleep safety returned by search engines is completely wrong.

In fact, only 43.5% of websites offered facts that were consistent with recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics — a frightening number, especially when you think of frantic parents Googling late-night questions about helping their child safely (and soundly) sleep through the night.

Authors of the study cited in the article go as far as to recommend that clinicians should recommend trusted URLs to patients for additional information. This recommendation would have been out of the question a decade ago, but today, a certain level of communication is required between social media and healthcare.

Since Google can’t always decide which websites are backed by trustworthy studies, some of the responsibility is shifted onto doctors’ shoulders; take an active approach to providing your patients with as much information as they need before they leave your office, and take a step further by providing URLs and websites directing patients to truly beneficial resources. Don’t let the wrong form of social media and healthcare mislead your patients; now more than ever, physicians need to make sure their patients’ first courses of actions are informed.

Maintaining a constant presence

Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media are vital parts of a healthcare marketing plan, but they’re also key players in the evolution of social media and healthcare. Not only are these spaces great forums for brand awareness, but they can also function as positive sources of information for your patients.

Some hospitals, like Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, use Facebook as a means to disseminate necessary information about parenting advice and health news. Not only that, but Le Bonheur’s feed is also stacked with family photos and success stories, offering a consistent source of comfort to visitors — and a reason for people to want to check in with the page. In this way, Le Bonheur is taking an active approach to bringing patients to its Facebook feed first — instead of having parents meander through less-than-credible sources.

Of course, it’s important to remember that not every bit of medical information can be shared online; while general tips, advice, and reminders are great forms of content, specific medical responses should be reserved for in-person visits. Some patients may view social media and healthcare as a replacement for hospital visits, which is a risky line of thought; while your social media efforts should seek to make patient’s comments and questions feel welcomed, it’s also completely ethical to redirect patients to bring specific concerns into the office.

Interested in learning more about how the changing relationship between social media and healthcare affects your practice? Contact the Healthcare Marketing Group today!

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