Social Media’s Healthcare Revolution

Thanks to social media the world is more connected than ever. From Twitter to Facebook and LinkedIn, it has not excluded the healthcare industry. Nowadays people are engaging with healthcare professionals, discussing health issues and sharing experiences online. This has offered healthcare practitioners and organisations many benefits from managing conditions at home to raising awareness.

A 2010 report by the Pew Internet & American Life project found that 80 percent of internet users are specifically searching for health information and of those, 40 percent are looking for a specific healthcare professional or doctor. The same study revealed that over 50 percent of e-patients are living with a chronic disease.

Millennials

Today, millennials are focused on healthy living, however, when it comes to preventative healthcare 93 percent of them are not scheduling appointments with doctors. They rather make use of urgent care when their symptoms become worse or they fall sick. This way of living fits a millennial’s convenience-seeking and cost-conscious lifestyle.

They look for both on demand treatment, healthcare advice and support and social media is a way for them to find this. From there they can look for advice on making better lifestyle changes and solutions to healthcare problems they may be having from peers and other sufferers.

For instance, a millennial who is concerned about snoring, a skin problem or certain symptom may seek information from blogs, social media groups or communities online before booking a visit to the doctor’s office.

Healthcare Providers

A survey conducted by PwC showed that 88 percent of physicians and other healthcare providers also use the internet and social media as a research tool, for biotech data, medical devices and pharmaceutical information.  As well as this, they use it to reach out to other specialists around the world to find and share their findings.

They also use social media pages from device manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies along with following blogs of other practitioners to gain more knowledge about their experiences. There is a big potential to use social media as a data mining source thanks to so much publicly available information regarding public health concerns and various diseases. For instance, healthcare practitioners have used social media to tract and predict influenza outbreaks.

Benefits of Social Media

Social media is showing to be beneficial during a public health crisis. Because of its instantaneous and wide-reaching ability, it is helping inform and protect. For instance, the 2016 Zika outbreak which gained notoriety for its devastating effects. As a result of social media, it helped build awareness and transmission amongst doctors and publicised prevention information to civilians and at-risk travellers. Physicians also engaged in twitter chats with Zika experts to help them with awareness tactics. This reduced the spread of misinformation related to the disease and the treatment.

Cons

With all the benefits of social media in healthcare there are some disadvantages. For instance, there is a lot of bad medical advice online which is resulting in patients misdiagnosing themselves.  By applying the misinformation to their situations and avoiding medical attention, there can be some serious consequences.

There are not many industries where social media has not had a remarkable impact and healthcare has not been excluded from this list. This has required the industry to respond to the dramatic shifts in the increasingly digital world. However social media has helped raise awareness for healthcare campaigns and programmes. It has encouraged patients to engage with health providers to monitor their conditions and adapt to a healthier lifestyle.

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