The Use of Social Media as a Communication Tool in the Healthcare Industry.
Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other social media tools has become an effective way to gather and disseminate timely information, network with colleagues, and to advertise services. Consumers also now have the opportunity to research and compare treatments. And though social media is an effective communication tool, there are also lessons to be learned from the past that human resource managers have to consider when making an organization’s social media policy.
No one policy will work for every business so human resource managers will have to decide what is appropriate for each organization and each employee. Relevant labor laws, employer rights and employee rights are some of the things that HR will have to consider when crafting a social media policy.
The use of social media will have a positive effect on healthcare industries for several reasons. Social media is a way that healthcare professionals can communicate with each other and with consumers. Advertising a business or service on social media is cheaper than traditional methods such as billboards, radio stations, newspapers, and television. Consumers can also use social media to compare healthcare services and this will increase competition which should drive the costs down making going to a doctor more accessible and more affordable. Consumers are also now able to research diseases and treatments and that gives consumers more decision-making power and makes their healthcare treatment more patient-centered. Individual patients can also review the service received by their healthcare providers on social media sites. This can deter negative doctor-patient experiences. Social media apps that track health are also increasing access to preventive healthcare instantly. Social media is evolving to be used in just about every aspect of healthcare. Healthcare professionals can use social media as a tool to share information with colleagues, patients, and the general public. Social media is also evolving as a training tool to educate and introduce new healthcare professionals.
There are risks to using social media. Patients can leave bad reviews on social media sites after having a negative experience. Another negative experience that seems to be common is that a hospital or government organization that has our private medical information has been breached and we are increasingly being told that we should change our passwords. There is controversary surrounding HIPPA laws and the use of social media. Previously I studied to be a family counselor and one of the issues the counseling profession is addressing is whether or not it is appropriate for professional counselors to be on social media. Should a counselor be friends with a patient? Does it violate HIPPA rights if a counselor accepts a friend request from a patient? What if it is a small town where everyone knows everyone? As online peer support groups grow this will become more of an issue that professionals will have to address. One of my friends recently graduated and at that moment she chose to deactivate her social media account.
Strategies to improve healthcare through the use of social media can include having clear communication objectives and identifying each goal that each professional in a healthcare organization will have for using social media. There will most likely be different reasons for professionals of an organization to use social media so each goal should be clearly identified. The target audience will also have to be defined so that relevant information will reach the intended audience. Developing trust with the audience is important. This can be accomplished by collaborating with other reputable organizations, and by offering science-based information in ways that make it easy for others to interact and communicate with the healthcare provider.
In conclusion, social media can be a useful communication tool for both providers and consumers. As we saw last year through the pandemic, the use of telemedicine grew. Patients are better informed to make personal decisions about their healthcare treatment and treatment is becoming more accessible because of information that is shared through social media. There are controversies about whether or not the use of technology will raise or lower the costs of healthcare, but I think that healthcare will become more affordable has healthcare technology and healthcare apps evolve. Social media is also increasing preventative measures that will make society healthier. On the other hand, there are consequences to using social media in healthcare. The biggest consequence is addressing ethical issues surrounding the use of social media.
While the use of social media is evolving, it does offer transparency and that is a good thing. It builds necessary trust between patients and doctors. Social media was not around in the days that the Bible was written, but people socialized with each other. Word got around that a King was born and when Jesus grew to begin teaching, people traveled and gathered to hear him. Values included in ethical guidelines for medical practitioners are similar to Jesus’ teaching. In other words, Jesus taught us to work for good (Beneficence), and he taught us to avoid harming others (Nonmaleficence). God also gave each of us free will and with that Jesus taught us to treat others as we want to be treated (Justice and Equity). As Christians, we also strive to deal truthfully (Veracity) with others and to fulfill our responsibilities (Fidelity) and promises to others. As Biblical scholars and human resource managers I believe that we can easily apply these principals to our every day use of social media and policy. When we write policies, I believe that each of these values is in our as we consider the rights and responsibilities of the companies that we work for, the people we work with, and the patients that we serve.