Health Care and Social Media
Social Media has taken such a foothold in our society that it should be noted what the benefits have become in regards to the health industry. Issues such as the Ebola outbreak, ALS bucket challenge, and suicide discussions; have all been at the forefront of social media. With more than 67 percent of physicians on social media for professional purposes as reported by the Federation of State Medical Boards, the beneficial uses are abundant. Not only are large campaigns and international health news finding their way on social media, but individual users are finding broad audiences to search for answers to health questions and/or fellow survivors or patients of certain ailments.
National health news is a major topic on social media. With the speed at which information travels via these networks, health news spreads faster than ever before. Incidents like the Boston Marathon Bombing in April of 2013, used to take days to reach as many people compared to the hours it took to reach millions of Americans and the world. The reach of the news is only part of the picture however. Health professionals and rescue personnel were then able to respond much faster and were more prepared for the aftermath. Nearby hospitals already knew when people would be coming in without having to wait for a news broadcast on TV or radio. Incidents like the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria used to only show up on the nightly news or as a footnote on some health websites. Now the CDC and the World Health Organization, along with other similar sites; post detailed information on their social networks clarifying the situation and informing the public of precautions being taken. With the ability to follow these organizations without having to manually search for their sites on a regular basis, health professionals receive updates and important posts automatically.
Charities and Health Causes
Recently, the ALS Association created a fund raising and awareness campaign called the “Ice Bucket Challenge.” Traditionally these associations have relied on walks, events, and media efforts to spread the word and raise much needed funds for their cause. This recent effort by the ALS Association has spread across social media unlike campaigns of the past raising traffic to ALS related websites and raising over 41 million dollars so far. Social Media makes campaigns like these work and other health organizations will be looking for similar ways to raise awareness. Even the more traditional walks and events now reach more followers and possible donors through videos, events, and photos; posted to the several social media outlets. Charities using social media have seen an increase by approximately 40% in their fundraising campaigns, a study by Charity Dynamics and Blackbaud found. National charities post news on breakthroughs and events regularly on their social networks spreading the news as fast as possible and driving as much traffic and potential donors to their sites.
The impact Social Media can have on a personal level tends to be overlooked. Serious health issues such as depression and other mental health illnesses are extremely difficult to face. Coping with a terminal illness or disability has always been very difficult resulting in depression or other ailments. The deaths of celebrities such as Heath Ledger and now Robin Williams, bring to the forefront in the media the terrible results of serious depression and other mental illnesses. Social Media has become a place where those dealing with those illnesses can talk to each other and their health care professionals without the anxiety or pressure of setting up appointments or worrying about the right time to bring their issues up in conversation. Physicians, nurses, and psychiatrists have begun creating separate accounts on social media specifically to address their patients and the growing need for faster methods of communication. The ability to connect with others with similar questions or needs has never been as easy as it is now with Social Media.
The Next Level
In the past, Social Media such as Facebook and Twitter appeared to be more of a fad and was for the younger generation for sharing photos with friends, without much use for professional networks. Today it appears things are changing and Social Media is maturing in a way that can be very beneficial to our health care industry. By connecting world health concerns and news with health professionals globally; greater strides can be achieved in research and studies of modern health issues. Individuals can stay in contact with their personal care physicians and support groups more often resulting in proper support or diagnosis when needed. And with advanced methods of fund raising and awareness building, charities can raise the funds necessary to provide their support and services to the health issues we continue to face. Social Media is here to stay, but the impact on health care looks bright and rewarding.