In the field of medicine, social media can be a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it broadens your influence, helps you connect with patients, and allows you to gauge public morale. On the other hand, it opens the door to faulty medical advice, puts your reputation at risk, and leads to generalities.
So is there a way for physicians to make peace with this unavoidable digital age? Here are some ways you can use your social media powers for good:
Using social media to educate
The most powerful way physicians can use social media is by imparting sound medical advice. They now have a greater opportunity than ever to use their skills to impact society at large. This is especially important since there is so much conflicting medical information and health advice on the internet, which spreads like wildfire via social media. And unlike other professions, more is at stake here, since incorrect medical advice can be life-threatening.
Thus, rather than dismissing social media, it is even more crucial that physicians take an active role in correcting wrong information by providing sound medical advice. As one medical professional affirms: “Every bit of knowledge that we convey adds up over time. Sometimes it can be frustrating to battle the constant barrage of false information and half-truths out there, but it is our duty to impart facts and information to others. In a nonthreatening way, we need to confront and discredit false information posted by others. Passing on knowledge is one of the key components to making a better society for ourselves and our fellow citizens.”
Using social media to connect with patients
The most obvious way social media is used both in and outside the medical field is to stay connected. Patients desire more regular and immediate access to their healthcare, and social media helps break down those barriers. More familiarity and accessibility builds trust over time. Furthermore, social media empowers patients to take a more active role in their health and selecting a health care provider. Thus, physicians should not feel threatened by this, but rather see it as an opportunity to work as a team with their patients.
This greater transparency can also incentivize physicians to provide quality care, rewarded by positive reviews on physician rating sites: “Social media platforms such as Facebook provide an opportunity to showcase the quality of care provided whether it’s through patient reviews or even just engaged followers. Physicians need to take this opportunity to showcase their expertise, compassion and overall quality of care to potential patients.”
Using social media to gauge morale
Beyond the more practical and functional aspects of social media, it allows us to detect patterns in the morale and attitudes among medical students, physicians, and patients. First, people are usually more candid via social media than they would be in person, and second, you are able to see where the collective stands on various issues rather than focusing on single opinions.
Anonymous social media organizations geared towards medical professionals give doctors and medical students a platform to express their true feelings and concerns, which are often considered taboo on the job. For example, one physician shares her concern over the underlying anger and ignorance permeating the medical profession. Social media also gives medical students a safe place to express their frustration, and allows educators to detect early signs of burnout and depression. Awareness goes a long way in addressing issues before it’s too late.