Advantages of Social Media in Healthcare

Since the invention of the internet, the world's communications have changed drastically. With this change came the inevitable rise of social media for both personal and business purposes. With billions of users every day and billions of more devices with access to the internet, it has opened up a global marketplace to business and individuals across the world like never before. This brilliant aspect of today's modern age comes with a vast variety of advantages to businesses, no matter how local or global they may. As an extension of this, the advent of social media websites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have brought benefits to every sector – the healthcare sector is no different.

Social media has revolutionised medical care across the world for various reasons. This article will flesh out those reasons and why social media is such an advantage to healthcare providers.

Advantages of Social Media in Healthcare

Most popular social network by reach
Most popular social network by reach

Advantage One: Ease of Access

One of the biggest problems that providing medical care to populations has faced in history is accessibility. For example, even in today's modern age with our advances in technology, around 50% of Africa does not have access to advanced health care solutions or facilities. While the picture isn't as grim in the West, elderly patients may have difficulty travelling to the doctor or a hospital for health care or information. For a lot of people and families, this is a real concern.

With the advent of the internet, travelling is no longer an issue. With medical information readily available online and with online booking services now in place thanks to social media, it is creating a world where medical care has become more accessible to people that struggle to get around like they used to.

Advantage Two: Social Health Education

Another power of social media is its ability to spur change in social issues our society faces every day. While this kind of social change is better known for movements like #MeToo that has been fuelled by social media, thanks to social media channels, social health education has also been promoted. This is beneficial as it allows individuals as well as companies to cross-reference different sources and promote widespread education of social health policies that may not have as much attention if it were not for social media.

For example, the rise of an abundance of information of a balanced diet and what foods contain what minerals that our bodies need is now available from reputable sources online. This makes vital social health information more accessible due to social media sharing and whole social media communities springing up based around the safe distribution of accurate information.

Advantage Three: Provision of Medical Information

Building off the last point, social media also allows for the distribution of medical information and medical advice. With social media allowing the publishing of articles and the sharing of these articles, medical information is now readily available to everyone from trusted online sources. This is brilliant as it can help people recognise symptoms of illnesses more easily to determine if they need a trip to the doctor or not. In places where health care is not free, this may ultimately lead people to save money over trips to the doctor that may not be needed. This can free up doctors time for those patients who sorely need attention.

Another advantage of social media is the advent of video sharing sites. This allows official medical institutions to provide video explanations of symptoms and how to treat them; opposed to just a paragraph of text.

Advantage Four: Online Support

Social media is wonderful for its creation and organization of various groups online. For example, Facebook has the functionality to create groups where people can post for a variety of reasons that are usually linked to the group’s function. This is also true for groups based on medical subjects or possibly even online emotional support groups.

While local support groups usually exist in most areas, some people may not feel confident enough to attend or may not be able to attend. For example, if a person does not have access to personal transport, a local support group may be too far away from them to attend. This is where social media steps in. Social media can provide a safe place for anyone to talk about anything; providing emotional support as we have never known before. In the case of people dealing with mental illnesses, isolation and feeling cut off from people can only make it worse. Online support groups can and probably have literally saved lives by their existence.

Advantage Five: Crisis Management

A final advantage of Social media for the healthcare industry is the management of crisis situations. With social media essentially being a way to reach millions of people in a matter of days, it is the perfect method for which information can be shared. For example, in the event of an outbreak, medical institutions can spread the word effectively and quickly to potentially save lives as well as prevent the outbreak from getting worse.

While social media has advantages for the health care industry, it also has pitfalls.

Pitfalls of Social Media in Healthcare

One of the biggest pitfalls for the healthcare industry that social media creates is the sharing of false information. While social media can be an excellent tool for trusted medical institutions to share information, wrong information can also be shared by ignorant individuals or groups. Due to this, it is paramount to always check for a source the post references and if this source is reputable. If a post or article does not seem to have a source, this can be a red flag for false information.

Another large pitfall surrounds the protection of personal data. With the internet becoming bigger every day with more devices, more servers and more users, an increasing challenge is securing the personal information of all those devices, servers and users. While this is a broad pitfall of social media in general, it is especially important for medical information.

WHO Tweet
WHO in 'Crisis' mode on Twitter.

Overall, social media management is complex but a wonderful tool if used correctly. While it can be useful, while using it, always be mindful of your personal information and potentially false information.

Having worked with the UK NHS for over 10 years Social Media Manager Ireland have extensive experience in running social media accounts for healthcare providers. If you would like to find out more on how we can help you then get in touch on +353 870 976872 or email lets.talk@socialmediamanager.ie.

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