Social media has impacted and changed our lives forever. It’s changed the way we do business and how we make choices. The healthcare industry has not been left out in this digital world. We are bombarded by health-related information on Facebook, twitter and other social networks.
The impact this has had on healthcare is immense. Recent studies show there are over 1.5 million active users of Facebook all over the world. A study done by mediabistro, a US based organisation, revealed that over 40% of patients agree that information found through social media affect the way they make decisions regarding their health says an article in allAfrica.
African countries are no different with millions of people using social media daily. But what impact does this have on healthcare, or your personal health. Do you make healthier choices because of health campaigns you are confronted with on social media platforms?
There are several health related Facebook pages established by doctors and many health experts who are actively taking advantage of social media to offer health education and advice. Some studies have shown that over 60% of social medial users have strong faith in social media posts made by doctors and health experts compared to other groups. Good examples of social media hashtag campaigns like #cigarrettesmokingkills and #letsfightcervicalcancer show that social media campaigns can increase community awareness on important health topics.
Health facilities are also taking advantage of social media in strengthening their operations, thereby increasing commitment towards quality healthcare delivery. Hospitals are increasingly using social media platforms like Facebook and twitter to acquire a competitive market position. Social media’s used by hospitals as a platform to increase awareness on the availability of medical services, cost of services or any issue the facility wants to share.
Hospital managers use social media for feedbacks from patients and clients. Patients can rate services and present their complaints directly, and managers often use these to adjust plans to increase healthcare quality.
Professional networking supports relationships between health experts. They can share information, research findings and even cases. Two-thirds of doctors are estimated to use social media for professional purposes. The togetherness brought by social media is helping improve the health system’s quality. Africa will keep benefiting.
Despite all the positive aspects that social media brings to the healthcare sector, there are intrinsic risks too. There is a greater possibility of breach of patient's privacy.
There are documented cases where healthcare providers deliberately or unknowingly shared clients' information on social media. People are using social media to self diagnose which often leads to self-medication of drugs, which can be devastating if life threatening symptoms are self diagnosed incorrectly or identified as something harmless.
There is also a plethora of misleading health information circulating on social media. It is therefore recommended not to rely solely on health information you find via social media and rather seek a professional advice from a medical practitioner.
There is no denying that social media has forever changed how we interact with the healthcare system. Whats important is that we acknowledge the role healthcare professionals play and know they remain vital in keeping people healthy.