iDoctor – New Horizons in the Digital and Social Media World
Are you ready to clean up your system? Refresh the nerves, look up your dreams and insert…insert what? Seems that a technophobe student like myself have run out of computer language to continue on my health perspective. In this digital age, I was subscribing to classics like The House of God on my iPhone, casting no less than a 100 songs on my playlist, placing an order at eBay, making online reservations and responding to emails.
From seminar to webinar, episode to webisode, editorial to webitorial and now even webcitations, everyone and anyone can now access the reality of the virtually unreal world from kids to mums and now Doctors. This avenue can take up two paths and I have my reasons to approve and disapprove the use of social media to promote healthcare.
Education and Awareness:
Initially, the primary sources of health information were the doctors. However, using a familiar easy to use interface, patients can have expansive access to quality information; acquiring complete control of their health and lifestyle. Closed communities, as well as open like Twitter and other more public communities, can serve as discussion avenues and learning opportunities. Visitors and registered patients can have full access to the corresponding website and consulting doctor’s portal in order to seek additional information, update health status and follow up in order to ensure privacy and limit misuse of information and identity. Numerous hospitals and famous doctors e.g. Dr Mehmet Oz and the famous reality TV series – The Doctors are experimenting on how to build trust and promote participation in online platforms. Patients can disclose their stories on YouTube and write testimonials on discussion forums to benefit audiences from both parties.
Web-based communication tools will likely enhance e-patient and e-student/doctor education and promote involvement in ways that alter traditional health care interaction and teaching. A variety of complicated surgical procedures and medical interventions previously reputed as “hard to digest” are now easily available as a step-by-step outline stocked with audio/visual enhancements thereby students and young doctors find it easier to adopt and apply to their own practices, leading to enhanced levels of participatory medicine. Doctors can also update regarding details on hospitals/clinics, special cases, drug/instrument retail, educational and exam kits etc. Similarly, webinars, are now being conducted for e-patients and welcome aspiring students and young medical graduates which can be paid/free and are popularized via social marketing for maximum exposure.
The HIVE (Health Innovation Exchange) has been developed as a way to encourage uptake of social media tools by students to support their education at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. A similar interpretation, “mEducator” project is an EU funded initiative of 14 organizations that attempts to establish “best practice” towards the sharing of medical educational.
Communication and Discussion:
Establishment of doctor to patient and doctor to doctor communication via social networking can open doors to new advancements and alleviate some existing problems. Doctors value their relationship with their patients, however are limited by a variety of factors. Non availability, inaccessibly, lack of self-care and education, fragmented follow ups or even consent. Doctors can send instant messages and allow video chats with patients as much as possible. They also can be made available on Facebook/twitter owing to their popularity and a large number of registered users. The synchronous activity can increase availability and access, share information, enable immediate diagnosis and prompt treatment. This facilitates patient empowerment and establishes a friendly relationship with the health care professionals.
Also, the doctors can communicate and share knowledge among themselves in online discussion platforms and the transfer of information can take the shape of any interactive web-based media; especially online videos. Patients can also share and access personalized medical information among themselves and family/peers challenged with similar health problems can benefit from experienced patients via ratings thereby reducing health literacy difficulties.
Feedback, Personal Establishment and Healthcare Marketing:
Web-enabled media require additional research to assess their impact. Social media applications provide convenient web-based interactive communication tools that may promote dialogue between health educators and e-patients. Portals such as Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, Google Buzz and Foursquare are some of the most followed and sponsored.
The founder of an interactive feedback tool – eyecareScore, Dr. Krefman, is a survey tool known to measure, understand and improve patient feedback. Blogs are a web-based, text-heavy format. Typical blog content on the websites contains health communication messages from medical experts and personal stories from patients. Another hit series are Mobile applications which support health information and messages in a wireless format available through mobile devices like smartphone like iPhone/HTC/Samsung series and web-based tablets such as the iPad/HP/Samsung. Applications include exercises, symptom checkers including Blood Pressure and sugar monitoring, Diet charts, quick drug information, Emergency Dos and Don’ts etc.
Hospitals and doctors may use social media for marketing and public relations attracting both the targets – new patients and recruit physicians. Social media is the most cost effective way to promote a message. It can provide a unique opportunity to position and market brand, add value, differentiate practice from the competitors and benefit health programs. For e.g. Social marketing initiated to de-stigmatize addictions, breast cancer awareness campaigns, eating disorders, health problems of Pakistan like Polio Eradication scheme, Family Planning strategies and Malaria vector control programs were good starters for Pakistan.
With several forces converging in the health market to include more digital media, my problems with the social setting are the Privacy Issues, the notion of Consent and Medical Etiquette.
Doctors with bad social media etiquette can indulge in inappropriate patient communication online. Ethics may prevent many physicians from engaging their own patients directly; but they can still serve as teachers to offer assistance. In some hospitals, doctors are being cautioned to avoid interacting with patients on social media; they might try to “friend” you so we suggest you don’t “accept”. Perhaps they can interact in a professional context and avoid doing so on personal social-media sites; or still they can set up separate professional and private accounts. Later, conveniently, we will be hunted down for another doctor dilemma of handling passwords. “How it’s easier to remember a silly jingle from a commercial and beauty products from childhood but have to go through an entire set of complicated calculations to arrive at a password!”
Technology can threaten patients’ privacy and even their own pocketbooks. A new breed of doctors are identifying medical cases, chasing disease drifts, advertising health campaigns and assessing screening methods via web-generated medical tools. Some doctors are entitled to answer medical questions and voice their opinions via social media, triggering privacy concerns since online anonymity is never guaranteed. Many individuals are not open to talk about their personal sufferings to which accidental revelation might threaten their social and personal lives. For example, breast cancer, HIV, Hepatitis, Legitimacy affairs, or other embarrassing skin diseases. Online interaction undoubtedly limits doctor’s access to important information. Thereby personal questions should still be handled through doctor’s office visits or phone calls; aiming at restoring patients’ values and subjectivities. Patients connect well with the physician; more satisfied with the care and are more likely to follow the doctor’s advice. So, there is a reason why doctors flash lights into your eyes and listen to your breath during an office visit.
Protecting patient confidentiality is important and the standards of behavior and respect for e-patients which are expected from doctors should be observed online; that can’t be on LinkedIn and Facebooked for patient privacy reasons! Consent to publish/share patient information like laboratory tests, photographs and other online confessions can meet public regard thereby defeating the purpose of security and respect. Why are public lashes, medical sufferings and grim images of war of the worlds receiving widespread “likes”?
The open nature that makes social media appealing increases concerns for healthcare organizations. Social media guidelines application should be made more universal supplemented with stiff penalties. American Medical Association recently released guidance to physicians using social media in their document “Professionalism in the Use of Social Media”
I wonder at times, whether the generated revenue conveniently be spent on a loaf of bread, or an hour of internet…That being said, I think there’s a need for me to be at the hospital!
About the Author: Eman Ahmed Khaled is a medical student at Sir Syed College of Medical Sciences, Karachi, Pakistan. She has a profound interest in Public Health and research. She strongly believes in public service and channels her energies into volunteering at various hospitals, Pakistan Red Crescent Society and the Rotaract Club of Karachi. She been creating specialized, user-friendly leaflets for malaria and vaccination awareness programs targeted to the less-fortunate masses. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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