With nearly 75 percent of American adults using at least one social network—half of whom belong to more than one—there is no doubt that social media has had a huge impact on society. In the medical profession, social media has traditionally been used on the client side, for comparing notes on a physician or medical office. Now social media is being used in ways that help medical professionals interact with patients, promote healthy living, and increase the overall quality of care.
Med school has changed over the years. Cadavers have been replaced by virtual autopsies and students can achieve most of a medical degree through online studies. Social media has taken a foothold in education and studies are showing that this is a good thing. According to an article published in Academic Medicine, medical educators are seeing a 71 percent increase in study engagement, and a 36 percent increase in student-professor interactions because of social media use. Medical schools are capitalizing on this phenomenon by offering students educational credit for online education within cyber-communities.
For a provider to be certified as a Patient-Centered Medical Home through the United States Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a provider needs to give educational resources and advice to at least 50 percent of patients on implementing healthy lifestyles, according to the NCBI. Medical providers are taking to social media to do this. Instead of mailing out costly brochures, providers are creating Facebook pages on which they give guidelines for a healthy lifestyle and participate in conversations about specific medical conditions. This demonstrates a patient-centered environment, and acts as a good marketing platform for the physician.
In the world of cybersecurity, some medical professionals do not want to take the risks associated with direct patient communication. The Facebook page for the Internet security firm Lifelock is full of risk information and suggestions associated with Internet fraud. Some medical professionals have opted to use social media to create health communities around specific conditions and topics. This allows the respondent the option of being anonymous and gives the medical provider a barrier to Internet-related security or privacy risks.
At its most fundamental, social networks are simply formats for the transfer of data. Anywhere there is data, there will be research. If a social network is a collection of complex connections between people, where the nodes represent individuals and the associations between them show a variety of different social interactions, life scientists can use social networking to glean understanding of people’s medical behaviors and beliefs. According to Science Direct, factors like weight control triggers, smoking behaviors, and variations in grief can be analyzed through social media interactions. This wide use of social media means that the data will be robust, as it will have large sample sizes and a variety of demographics.
Guest author Victoria Campbell is a graphic designer who helps small businesses develop e-commerce sites to compete with the big boys.
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