Social media and healthcare make a great pair, but...

Key Takeaway:

The advent of the social media into the healthcare industry has thrown open a hitherto unknown dynamic. It presents the industry the kind of opportunities that were hard to come by till now. Yet, it is full of challenges.

It is now an inescapable fact and a given: the onslaught of the social media into the healthcare industry cannot be reversed. The wave is too strong to resist. The explosion in the use of social media has impacted the healthcare industry on a scale that is unprecedented.

The universal pervasiveness of the social media

Social media and healthcare have become great buddies mainly because of the sheer power of reach of the social media. What started out essentially as services that shared photos and messages has turned out to be a giant opportunity for the healthcare industry. Today, it is something that no one in the healthcare industry -or those outside it, such as the lay young population that seeks medical information - is insulated from.

Now, not only patients, but also physicians and everyone of any significance in the healthcare industry use the social media to disseminate information. Social media and healthcare have become strongly paired also because they help in keeping the patient in close contact with the healthcare provider. It is no surprise that the social media have broken the barriers of age and geography in reaching out to the highest and widest range of users.

Some trends about social media and healthcare

  • It is estimated that a fifth of the entire American population exchanged medical information over the social media in 2010
  • About three-fourths of all patients use the social media for some information before reaching a healthcare provider
  • At least a thousand top US hospitals use social media for communicating with patients and providers
  • Globally, up to half a billion people could be linking social media and healthcare by using the former

Now, the challenges

Despite social media in the healthcare industry being a phenomenon of such magnitude; there are some very well placed concerns.

  • Data security and privacy: By far, the biggest challenges associated with social media and healthcare is the one relating to data security and privacy. These are very big challenges, since the crux of legislations such as HIPAA is the protection of these. Security breaches and lack of privacy are seen as important reasons for increasing litigation in the US.
  • Reliability: Reliability of data that comes out of the social media is a huge factor, because researched and corroborated information, the backbone of healthcare, is difficult to come by with the social media.
  • Compliance: It is very difficult to monitor the social media for healthcare-related legal compliance issues. This is because of the very nature of the social media. Supervising access and ensuring veracity of patient information is very difficult in this medium.
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