مقالات باللغة الإنكليزية

Sharing Medical Information With The Public On Social Media Platforms: Challenges and Opportunities

إعداد الصيدلاني ليبان طاهر: ماجستير في العلوم الصيدلانيّة

الإشراف والتدقيق العلمي الدكتور الصيدلاني رامز القضماني

Introduction

In this article, we will discuss the impact of social media on healthcare delivery, the benefits and opportunities available for healthcare professionals (HCPs) to provide the best care for the public on social media and the challenges associated with the digital transformation of health services.

From its emergence in the 2000s, social media has changed the way people communicate. Social media became inevitable for many people in modern days’ life. It could be attributed to the highly increasing social media programmes.(1) The major impact of social media is mainly observed in internet marketing, entrepreneurship, youth and teenagers.(2) The health sector, education, and population’s behaviour also get evolved.(3)

Social apps are used by various population groups depending on their age.(5) In the U.S., Facebook is the most commonly used social app among adults (74%), whereas Instagram and Snapchat is widely common in young adults (77%).(6) Although Facebook is widely being used in Arab countries, WhatsApp is considered to be more prevalent. A study performed in 2019 indicated that WhatsApp was the most popular social media application (75% penetration rate) in most of Arab countries.(7,8) Around 3.6 billion people were using social media in 2020.(9) It is also expected to rise to 3.78 billion in 2021.(10) Nowadays, Healthcare professionals are progressively engaging in social media to interact with the patients and the public.(11) Nevertheless, social media is a double-edged sword, i.e., if used properly, it could enhance patients’ care; otherwise, it could be a tragedy. Social media can be used for healthcare professionals to share information, discuss the health policies & guidelines, and educate & interact with the patients.(4,7)

Impact of social media on healthcare delivery

As human beings, our entire existence is about social interaction. We get motivated to being partnered with people. It is highly essential not to minimize the opportunities to connect with and learn from any constituency who may contact for whatever the reason is. One thumb rule advice for socially active health care professionals is to refer to highly reputed websites, governmental institutions, and trusted authorities when posting medical news, articles, and advice.

Healthcare professionals should be socially active, and since the patients are already using various social media platforms, building a relationship with them is of high importance.(12) Over 6 million people did health-related searches per day in the united states.(13) Most of the people preferred if their healthcare providers have a strong social presence.(14) Of the revolution made in communication and information technology, Facebook constitutes the most widely used social network.(15) Health caregivers need to build an electronic health system that allows point-to-point communication between the patients and their health care team.

Challenges and opportunities of social media in healthcare improvement

It is necessary to ensure the readability and the quality of the health-related information before sharing with the public.(16) If the information is very complex and purely scientific, that will fail to provide many health benefits to the patients, such as explaining how medicines act. Patient-focused care is always related to improved health, the better quality of life and other benefits.(17) Hence, health care professionals need to implement patient-centred care when delivering medical services on social media. Although sharing inaccurate or misleading information is not a new phenomenon, it can result in a negative impact on public health. Some people may also lose their confidence in advice shared on social media.(18) Health care professionals are responsible for ensuring the advices given on social media is benefiting patients.(19) It is also crucial for the doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other socially active health care teams to educate the people they are communicating with and addressing the potential risks associated with self-treatment. Moreover, it is also necessary to create awareness among the community that the information shared is general and not personalized to each individual. Searching medical information on google is harder and challenging to filter, so it is the health care team’s role to create reliable and comfortable social platforms where the patients can find what they are looking for and clarify if they have any doubts. Many people on social media seek medical information from other people who had the same conditions as they do, termed as peer-to-peer health care.(20) This phenomenon may have great importance to build a very easy network with the patients and enrich them with the necessary medical advice.(21) Peer to peer health care is giving great opportunity to the patients to write about their experiments and how they have managed that could be useful for many patients around the world.(22) It is a challenging process to get published an article in a highly respected journal and become viable to the people.(23) However, nowadays, a post could be written, and only one click will let the advice or information shared with public networks. Social media is a vital communication channel that appeals to some groups of audiences that we are trying to reach that we may not reach otherwise. When the health care team is socially active, it will enhance accessibility to secure health information and provide emotional support to the community. On social media, the health care team can build their professional development approaches while getting updated medical studies shared by their colleagues.(7)

Conclusion

There is no sign that social media will slow down; hence, sharing medical cases with the public requires considering various health-related acts and norms. For instance, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) includes the protection of personal privacy as well as the confidentiality of the medical records of the patients. It is necessary to create awareness within the medical team to consider the international rules & acts when sharing medical information through media.(24) This will ensure that shared medical information maintains a great level of compliance with privacy rules as social media does not have specific rules to protect patient’s privacy and confidentiality.(25) Among the common violations of HIPAA regulations are sharing pictures where patient’s information is visible on the background with others on social media and sharing any other kind of Protected Health Information (e.g. images).(26,27) The opportunities and benefits of social media as a health care tool overweight its challenges and drawbacks. However, growing awareness between physicians, pharmacists, nurses, physiotherapists and other healthcare teams on how to use social media effectively and efficiently is recommended.

References

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