In a time when more people find answers to medical and health questions by going online than by consulting with a doctor, it just stands to reason that social media would have an impact on health care. In fact, a growing number of consumers simply seem to trust the experiences of friends than they do the outcomes provided by doctors so they post their questions on social media, get a response and act on that information prior to setting an appointment with a physician. According to Susannah Fox of PEW Internet, people connect via social sites like Facebook to share stories and work together on health issues such as in the case of two mothers who began working together to prevent the overtreatment of a one of their children.
Trust Is a Huge Factor
As anyone studying for a masters in health policy can attest to, trust is huge among millennials who will willingly take the advice of a trusted friend before that given by a doctor whom they’ve never met before. For this reason, many young people won’t consult with a physician unless it is an acute illness that needs immediate attention. Today’s healthcare organizations are setting policies that utilize social media to build a following and are setting ethical guidelines so as not to cross any boundaries of confidentiality that could violate a patient’s rights.
Healthcare Professionals Use Social Media to Network
The 21st Century is also a time when technology is literally exploding and no matter how well-read or well-informed a practicing physician is, there is nothing like networking on social media to share the latest trends among peers. Where one doctor may have read a journal on a new procedure, another may have found that a newly released medicine has been found effective in a certain percentage of a test group. In 2013 it was found that as many as 31% of healthcare providers networked with peers on social media and it is probably that this number has probably almost doubled within the past three years.
Social Media Affects Choice in Providers
According to a survey conducted by DC Interactive Group along with Demi & Cooper Advertising, almost half the people surveyed responded that social media highly influences their choice in healthcare providers. This is important because there are times when a certain hospital or physician gets bad press. It’s a fact of life in the medical profession. Social media is a way to counteract some of that, thus mitigating the damage, or in the words of a social media marketer, sites like Facebook make it easier to scale back a negative image.
From interacting with doctors and healthcare institutions to getting much needed info from trusted friends, social media is impacting healthcare in the United States. It is a relatively new phenomenon, within the past half-decade or so, but one that is growing and consequently in need of being regulated by healthcare law. Protecting the rights and privacy of consumers is paramount but connecting with them is also a vital concern. In any case, social media is impacting the way in which patients and providers interact and that is seen as a positive on both sides of the fence.