Healthcare News & Insights

Sharing the health: How hospitals can use social media

There’s another strange tool hospitals should consider using to improve patient care and manage diseases — social media. 

463110693The internet isn’t just for cat videos and ways to waste time anymore, it’s also becoming a useful tool for hospitals and healthcare providers.

Research from Creation Healthcare, a research and training consulting firm, shows that more healthcare providers are flocking to social media sites like Twitter, according to PMLiVE’s report on the research. When the site first launched in 2006 only 23 healthcare professionals were on the site. Currently, there are 75,000 healthcare providers using Twitter worldwide, and nearly a third are in the U.S.

It might seem like social media isn’t all that valuable but new research and studies are showing that social media and health care are starting to cross paths in important areas, like care quality and disease management.

Tweeting to better care

Generally, providers tend to tweet about Healthcare-related topics like policies, new medical research or disease treatments. But sites like twitter aren’t just a way for hospitals and doctors to trade tips.

As mobihealthnews reports, Twitter recently approved access to their archives for several medical research projects.

One project, HealthMap of Boston Children’s Hospital, wants to use twitter data to track food borne gastrointestinal illness. The group is hoping to build off recent success where they used social media data for a sleep study. HealthMap used Twitter and Facebook for data on how many people in certain populations suffer from insomnia, and what those people have in common with each other.

At the same time, researchers from the University of Twente in the Netherlands will study the effectiveness of public health campaigns for early cancer detection. Part of the research will involve analyzing campaign “hashtags”, such as #Mamming for breast cancer or #HPVReport to see if they led to other word-of-mouth discussions or real-life actions.

Making web connections

Hospitals that haven’t paid much attention to their web presence should reconsider their stance and policies on social media use.

As it turns out, social media also is providing more practical uses for hospitals issues, beyond being another source of patient information. The sites can also help disease detection and treatment by acting as a bridge between patients and providers.

As FierceHealthcare reports, Twitter has already been used to help track outbreaks and spreading of viruses like the flu, and can also be effective in helping patients with chronic conditions.

Hospitals can also use social media to help empower patients with chronic illnesses by providing helpful information or reminders about treatments and managing symptoms. Hospitals can also use sites like Twitter and Facebook to put patients in touch with communities and groups that provide support and assistance with living with chronic illnesses.

Social media provides another avenue to communicate with patients and families about their conditions. Improving patient-provider communication with social media can then lead to stronger relationships between patients and their doctors.

As far as tools go, using social media in health care is still a relatively new concept, which means it may take some time to work out some of issues associated with it, especially privacy issues. However, there are some definite advantages when your hospital is making the most out of the web.

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