It doesn’t seem so long ago that Facebook was being dismissed as nothing more than a means of getting in touch with old school-friends with chatting online with friends.
However, in recent times social media has expanded to the beast it has become today with a number of different sites reaching out to influence all corners of society.
Nothing is sacred or exempt from the scrutiny of Twitter and the like, and the medical profession is no exception.
We take a look at how the world of social media is impacting on hospitals.
Access to information
The internet has opened up a whole new way of life, with information now available at the click of a mouse. This has never been more relevant than when it comes to medicine.
Patients are increasingly using the internet as a means of finding out more about conditions they have been diagnosed with or even self-diagnosing, the latter being an activity which has as many disadvantages as benefits.
During a consultation there is only a finite amount of time and the world-wide web provides the chance to research things in more detail or explore possibilities.
Upping the ante
But whilst the internet has undoubtedly been a source of helpful information, social media has taken things that one step further.
The ability to communicate directly, openly and regularly with fellow sufferers has brought a completely new dimension to the world of medicine. Using social media, patients are joining groups specifically dedicated to certain illnesses with everything from depression to cancer covered. This provides individuals the opportunity to connect with others who have the same condition, sharing experiences and information.
What this means in practice is that people no longer have to leave their homes to join support groups and those in isolated parts of the country, or with less common conditions, can still find others in the same position.
By sharing knowledge and being made aware of treatments being offered elsewhere, patients are approaching their own doctors with a different attitude. No longer willing to simply accept what they are being told, hospitals are finding patients wanting to take a more active role in their own treatment and challenging why they are not being offered what is available in other parts of the country.
Individuals with access to social media groups can become much better informed but problems can sometimes occur, particularly as in most cases there is no professional medical input, simply contributions from patients. For this reason, some hospitals are opting to take a more proactive approach on the subject of social media and establishing their own presence on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook to name but a few.
The medical profession is beginning to recognise that social media has an extremely valuable role to play in helping patients to contribute not just to their treatment but to their overall healthcare, and the best way to do this is to help them to stay informed.
But whilst providing resources, information and updates can be very helpful and have a positive impact on a hospital’s efficiency by empowering patients, there also remains the opportunity to advertise services.
Some studies have revealed that patients use social media as a way of deciding which hospital to be treated in, with more than four out of ten admitting they are influenced by what their fellow online users have to say. Hospitals are therefore using these channels as a means of showing off their facilities and reaching patients who might be unsure about where to go for treatment.
Social media has the capacity to exert a significant influence over hospitals by providing access to information for patients, helping them to play a far more active role in their treatment. However, by allowing patients to share experiences and opinions, it also can contribute to where individuals choose to go for treatment. For this reason, an increasing number of hospitals are now fully embracing social media as an integral part of their marketing, with some even employing full time social media teams. Social media can be used for advertising jobs in hospitals as well.
Facebook has reached the same number of users in just five years that it took telephones 50 years to match, and with the technology expected to continue to spread and grow hospitals will have to inevitably move in the same direction.
Written by Nathan Griffiths who writes about Social Media a lot.
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