There’s no doubt that social media is a powerful tool, however, many tend to underestimate just how powerful its impact can be for public health. Doctors, hospitals, and health organizations should embrace social media and use their platforms to improve their work and the lives of their patients.
But how exactly can social media platforms and influencers be used by those in the medical field? Depending on your end goals, value and service provided to your audience and your internet presence already established, there are plenty of ways to best accomplish this.
Here are seven ways to get started and to see the best results.
To Correct Misconceptions and Misinformation
Social media has allowed us to access tons of information, research, and data at the swipe of a finger. However, this comes at a cost and false facts also circulate online at an alarming rate. From news that ginger was more effective at treating cancer than chemotherapy to onions being foolproof protection against COVID-19, misinformation and fake news present a danger like no other. Since people are inclined to share reports that they find interesting with family and friends, there’s no telling how many have gotten sick or have exacerbated their own illnesses by following false guidelines that they saw online.
Oftentimes, those who spread fake news attach the names of established individuals and organizations to make their information seem authentic. Some also present facts without context, like in the case of Ann Coulter who tweeted last month that COVID-19 was less dangerous than the seasonal flu for individuals under the age of 60. She was later corrected by Peter Hotez, the founding dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.
Professionals and organizations in the medical field should use social media to stop the spread of misinformation and fake news before it harms others.
To Raise Awareness
With every post on social media potentially reaching hundreds and thousands of people each day, using its platforms is extremely important for health professionals and organizations. In our rapidly-changing and hyperconnected world, social media is a great tool for making sure that the public is up to date on the latest health guidelines and advisories. Nowadays, people no longer have to put in the time and effort to do the research themselves. Rather, they can stay in the loop even while scrolling through family photos on their feed.
In addition to this, social media can also be used to raise awareness about new developments and advancements in the medical field. For instance, the Mayo Clinic recently shared the work of Dr. Andre Terzic M.D., Ph.D. on their Facebook page. He and his team had been able to uncover how heart attacks could be healed by stem cell-activated mechanisms, a treatment that could change the lives of those experiencing or have experienced a heart attack.
To Enhance their Services Through Feedback
Social media can also be used by medical professionals and hospitals to get feedback from their patients, helping them evaluate how to improve their services and provide better care. Additionally, crowdsourcing patient experiences allows them to assess common reactions to certain treatments, which could potentially lead to medications and therapies being improved or outright changed.
Besides this, hospitals can use social media to determine the services offered by other clinics and health centers, which they can imitate to enhance their own. Patient satisfaction and the areas that other hospitals lack in can also be gauged, allowing hospitals the chance to meet the needs of their community.
To Communicate During a Crisis
It’s an undisputed fact that social media pervades nearly every aspect of our lives and in times of crisis, such as the current global pandemic, many have turned to Twitter and Facebook as their primary sources of news and information. With this in mind, it’s clear that medical professionals and institutions should use social media to issue official status updates and health advisories to immediately inform members of the public.
Using Facebook Live and other such streaming platforms is also extremely helpful, allowing those without access to television and local channels to stay in the know.
To Monitor Public Health
Hashtags are commonly used in social media to categorize posts and show them more easily. Because of this, many health organizations have been increasingly using hashtags to monitor outbreaks in certain areas and to get a sense of the severity of the situation. A great example of this would be the HealthMap Twitter page by the Boston Children’s Hospital, which aims to conduct real-time surveillance of emerging threats of infectious diseases.
To Increase Patient Trust
Through social media, hospitals and doctors can show their personalities or their “human face,” allowing patients to see them as more than just someone who checks their vitals or a place that they go when sick. This may seem unnecessary, however, doing so has proven to be effective in strengthening local communities and increasing patient trust. People are more inclined to have confidence in individuals and organizations with whom they have forged relationships with.
For instance, UCLA Health, an academic medical center in California, regularly interviews doctors and nurses on their Instagram page. Comments on such posts have been overwhelmingly positive and many have even encouraged the institution to share more.
To Market Themselves
For doctors, especially those with private practices, social media is a great platform to market themselves and grow their customer base.
Dr. Sandra Lee, a dermatologist from the United States, proves just how powerful the internet and social media can be when it comes to marketing yourself. Her YouTube channel, Dr. Pimple Popper, where she posted videos of her treating patients for their skin ailments gained traction and went viral online, which increased the number of clients that she had, made her a household name in her field, and eventually led to the launch of her own line of skincare products.