The general public’s use of social media has risen dramatically in the last nine years. Social networking sites offer a variety of features that cater to the needs of individual users. For health care professionals (HCPs), various social media technologies are available, including social networking sites, blogs, microblogs, wikis, media-sharing platforms, and virtual reality and gaming settings. These instruments can benefit from professional networking and education, organizational promotion, patient care, patient education, and public health programs.
For many people, social media influencers have become the most recent source of health information. It is relevant right now as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread. Influencers are increasingly being used to promote public health campaigns, wellness products and services, prescription medications, and medical equipment. Because these promos and unwanted commercials are so common, customers and our government should pay special attention to them.
Healthcare professionals can use social media to
- disseminate information,
- discuss healthcare policy and practice issues,
- encourage healthy behaviors,
- interact with the public,
- train and communicate with patients, caregivers, students, and colleagues,
- improve patient outcomes,
- build a professional network,
- raise personal awareness of news and discoveries,
- motivate patients,
- share community health information.
Influencers’ “influence” can be a double-edged weapon. The ability of influencers to transmit accurate messages cannot be understated, but they must also know that their statements can have significant consequences. Influencer marketing is a complex and developing industry with far-reaching implications for our daily health and well-being.
Consumers must do their due diligence on health-related social media posts now more than ever, and influencers must be cautious about their information. In recent months, their trust has eroded across all institutions, from the government to the media. Traditional sources’ credibility is at an all-time low. Despite this loss, customers still have faith in businesses.
APPLICATIONS OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN HEALTH CARE
- Professional Networking: Physicians are more likely to use social media sites where they can communicate with colleagues, participate in online communities, listen to experts, and participate in online communities. Pharmacists also use social media for communicating with colleagues.
- Patient Assistance: Although some HCPs are hesitant to use social media for direct patient care, doctors and health care facilities are gradually accepting the practice.
- Professional Education: As a means of improving clinical education, social media is also used for communication. Several studies have highlighted using social media tools to enhance clinical students’ understanding of communication, professionalism, and ethics.
- Patient Education: Patients’ access to health care information and other educational materials can also be improved through social media. They can join virtual groups, participate in research, receive financial or emotional support, set objectives, and track their progress via social media. Physicians are increasingly using social media to educate their patients about health care. They tweet, write blogs, record videos, and participate in disease-specific patient education discussion groups.
- Programs for Public Health: Social media has established massive global networks that can quickly disseminate knowledge and mobilize large groups of people to help achieve public health objectives. As a result, social media can be an effective tool for public education and activism on general health issues.
- Professional Image Damage: Publishing unprofessional content might reflect negatively on HCPs, students, and related institutions. The first impression made by social media material can be lasting, as it conveys information
- Violation of the Patient–HCP Boundary: Even if patients initiate online communication, HCPs who communicate with their clients on social media may be breaking the patient-HCP boundary.
- Poor Quality of Information: The lack of quality and dependability of health information accessible on social media and other internet sources is the biggest drawback. Authors of medical material published on social networking networks are frequently unknown or only have little information to identify them. Furthermore, medical data could be unreferenced, incomplete, or informal.
- Issues with Licensing: Social media usage can potentially harm a health care provider’s qualifications and licensure. Physicians can be disciplined by state medical boards, which can impose limitations or suspend or revoke licenses. Unprofessional behavior, including inappropriate use of social media, sexual misconduct, patient privacy breaches, abuse of prescription rights, and falsification of credentials, can result in these sanctions.
Healthcare and pharmaceutical firms now have the chance to engage with patient influencers who have created enormous followings based on their genuineness and relatability. Anyone can state an opinion and share it with their followers on social media platforms, which have democratized the creation and transmission of information. Their content includes in-depth consumer reviews and extremely personal anecdotes that help spread disease awareness.