Social media in recent years has had a significant impact on every aspect of our lives and even the medical industry is no exception. The growing use of social networks both among professionals and patients has shown to have a positive impact on the general quality of health care.
Specifically, social media contributes to a large extent to the way we choose our healthcare professionals. According to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, 41% of patients said that social media content influenced the choice of hospital or doctor.
Another large study conducted in 2016 at the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands, indicated that social media have an even greater impact on doctor-patient relationships. After analyzing over 1,700 articles, research has identified that patients’ use of cases of social media can be grouped into six categories:
- Network support
- Social comparison
- Emotional expression
Each of these use cases has different effects on patients and, at the same time, affects their relationship with the healthcare provider in the following ways that we will now analyze.
The use of social media leads to fairer communication between doctors and patients
Social media has become a popular tool among patients to expand their knowledge of treatment conditions and options. For example, 29% of patients look at social media to see the experience of other patients with their disease, and 42% browse the social media platforms to discover the reviews of consumers relating to health, according to PwC.
By increasing their knowledge, patients are more prepared to establish dialogue, according to Nu Image Medical. They can communicate better with their doctor and know what kind of questions to ask. According to Kevin Meuret, CEO of Mantality Health, “The use of social media makes patients more inclined to actively communicate with their doctor during medical consultations in the first place. Growing social media conversations about stigmatized conditions such as low testosterone or psoriasis send a powerful message to other patients and encourage their willingness to seek medical assistance. “
For example, the American Psoriasis Association has launched a massive awareness campaign on Instagram, encouraging users to share images of their conditions using the #getyourskinout and #psoriasiscommunity hashtags. Dominic Urmston, head of digital communications for the charity, explained that “users can find people who share similar experiences with which they can chat and support each other. Moreover, it strengthens them so that they can share images of their psoriasis and also publish their direct experiences “. As a result, the condition becomes less stigmatized and more people are encouraged to evaluate the various treatment options and talk about them with their healthcare professionals.
Social media contributes to the increase in research information on doctors
A less brilliant note is that thanks to social media, 44% of users search for information on doctors or other health professionals before planning a visit, with the possibility of changing their structure and doctor more easily in the case of reviews and negative reviews. Patients now pay more attention to negative reactions shared by other users and may choose to change doctors after participating in an online discussion with other patients who have tried them on their skin.
Social media help develop more harmonious relationships between doctor and patient
“Social media often allows patients to follow the doctor’s recommendations and stick to the proposed treatment plan, especially if they become part of a social media support group,” said James Bayliss, CEO of Vaper Empire. “This, in turn, creates less tension between the doctor and the patient during clinical interactions.”
Furthermore, social media often offer patients space to “vent” their negative emotions and frustrations, instead of doing so in front of the doctor. However, the research has further identified a missed opportunity: patients rarely tend to back each other up to seek alternative treatments if their current does not bring the desired results.
The content of social media can lead to non-optimal interactions between doctors and patients
Social media and online publishers have given us access to a huge amount of health information scattered around. Millennials, in particular, are more inclined to follow online health advice and rely on information shared by their colleagues, instead of scheduling the necessary appointments with specialists.
“When patients bring social media content to the consultation, along with their strong opinions on the subject, health professionals are forced to take the time to select and verify this information,” said Dali Dugan, CEO of HealthworxCBD. “As a result – adds Dugan – they believe their experience is challenged and may influence their behavior with the patient during the session. The doctor’s negative reactions can affect the patient’s subjective well-being, making them feel drained ”.And those professionals, who are willing to take an extra step for their patient, face a greater risk of making a wrong judgment by submitting incomplete or questionable data from unverified sources.
The bottom line is this: as a patient you should always treat the information found online in an objective manner. While these may be useful to provide you with a general idea of the health facility or doctor, guiding you to the right questions to do during visits, they should not be treated as the ultimate source of truth to question the doctor’s experience it must always be tested live.