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Weaving Social Media into Healthcare

Social media is a controversial topic in healthcare. Maintaining patient privacy is top priority for all healthcare providers. It’s easier to ban social media and avoid the possible breach in privacy but many institutions are taking a different approach. Social media can be utilized to improve awareness not just of trends, epidemics but also of causes and groups. Using social media healthcare providers can engage and educate patients like never before. Connecting patients with rare diagnosis across the globe and giving these patients a virtual support group could lead to better care and improved health outcomes.

Did you hear or take part in the #icebucketchallenge, a fundraising campaign to raise awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, ALS? Even if you didn’t take the challenge you heard of it and maybe even donated to the cause. This is a great example of how we can use social media to increase awareness for diseases that may not have enough funding for research. Many other groups are utilizing social media to spread awareness.

Twitter has also been a great resource for identifying trends. IBM recently announced a partnership with Twitter to help make use of the enormous amounts of tweets and translate that data into something we can use to help forecast trends and demands. This partnership could be particularly helpful in the healthcare industry. As always privacy is a concern for some twitter users, if you are unsure of your privacy settings check out Twitter’s Privacy Policy for more info.

Speaking of Twitter, another trend that has been popping up in the Twittersphere lately has included hashtags to engage and educate patients on diseases. Due to the great impact social media has on our everyday lives we can utilize this tool to communicate with people all over the world. Even if the hashtag doest report a million hits doesn’t mean it’s not useful. Check out this oncology project and their hashtags here.

Connecting patients with one another via social media can create a support group that may or may not be available to the patient otherwise. Some patients may find it comforting to talk to someone with the same disease even if they are across the world. The point is to get patients connected and engaged. The more engaged patient are the better outcome we can expect.