Importance of Social Media In Clinical Practice Of Doctors

Communication is one of the most fundamental elements in the practice of medicine. Medical professionals have to communicate with patients, colleagues, and sometimes even with digital tools and information. Patients in today's world are becoming e-patients using digital technologies and online resources to manage their health strategically. These patients are empowered, engaged, and experts in their conditions; therefore, they have special questions and require a different approach from their caregivers. Considering the above reasons, it has become inevitable for doctors to use the online world to practice medicine. Many social media tools are available for doctors that can be used to improve or enhance professional networking, education, organizational promotion, patient care, patient education, and public health programs. WHAT IS SOCIAL MEDIA? Social media is an internet-based tool that allows individuals and communities to gather and communicate, share information, personal messages, ideas, images, and other content, and, in some cases, to collaborate with other users in real-time. Social media sites provide a variety of features that serve different purposes for the individual user. Some of these (grouped by function) include:

  • Social networking (Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter)

  • Professional networking (LinkedIn)

  • Media sharing (YouTube)

  • Content production (blogs and microblogs [Twitter])

  • Knowledge/information aggregation (Wikipedia)

  • Virtual reality and gaming environments

USES FOR SOCIAL MEDIA IN HEALTH CARE Professional Networking Social media is helpful for physicians to participate in online communities, listen to experts, and network and communicate with colleagues regarding patient issues. Social media can also connect physicians in third-world countries with specialists in more medically advanced locations. Social media provide a new communication channel for doctors to network professionally to share and exchange medical information. Professional Education The communication capabilities provided by social media are also being used to improve clinical education. Organizational Promotion Health care organizations such as hospitals, health systems, professional societies, pharmaceutical companies, patient advocacy groups, and pharmacy benefit companies, use social media for many purposes. Uses include:

  • Communicating with the community and patients

  • Enhancing organizational visibility

  • Marketing products and services

  • Promotions

  • Providing a channel for patient resources and education

  • Providing customer service and support

Patient Care Although doctors have been reluctant to use social media for direct patient care, this practice is slowly being accepted by clinicians and health care facilities. Recent studies have found that physicians have begun to develop an interest in interacting with patients online. Some physicians use social media (Twitter and Facebook) to enhance communication with patients. Approximately 60% of physicians favoured interacting with patients through social media to provide patient education and health monitoring and encourage behavioural changes and drug adherence, hoping that these efforts will lead to better education, increased compliance, and better outcomes. Patient Education Social media can also improve patients' access to health information and other educational resources. Physicians are also promoting patient health care education. They tweet, make blog posts, record videos, and participate in disease-specific discussion forums focused on patient education. Such platforms provide an important opportunity for physicians to distribute evidence-based information to counter inaccurate material on the Internet. THE DANGERS OF SOCIAL MEDIA

  • Poor Quality of Information

  • Breaches of Patient Privacy

  • Violation of the Patient–HCP Boundary

  • Legal Issues


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