From public health campaigns to clinical healthcare, the health industry is regularly turning to social media to help raise awareness and spread information to as many people as possible. Social media has enabled the healthcare industry to create healthcare support groups, track patient diagnoses, and share preventative information.
Public Health Campaigns
Recent figures show that approximately five billion people have access to a mobile device. In the past, and in the present in developing nations, SMS has been used to make people aware of public health issues. However, now that a lot of people have access to the internet, it is much easier (and quicker) to make use of social media to spread awareness.
Social media can help to raise awareness of any public health issues; this can be anything from the Zika virus to flu season. Public health officials often use social networks to promote behavioral changes, and also to spread time-sensitive information. Social media accounts can also be staffed by experts, helping to quell any patients’ fears and answer any questions. It’s also helpful to receive information from the public via these profiles.
Achieve Important Objectives
In addition to spreading awareness, social media can also be used to help health professionals achieve important objectives. Some of these things can include:
- Obtaining volunteers for clinical research projects
- Facilitating patient-to-patient support groups
- Giving patients access to new information on diseases
- Improving practice efficiency by spreading information on when a patient needs to go to a doctor and when they can remain at home
- Providing continuing education to patients all over the world
Problems with Social Media
While social media is helping the public health industry in numerous ways, there are also problems for public health professionals to overcome. First, it’s important that patient confidentiality is complied with at all times. Standards of online professionalism must be portrayed to avoid legal issues. Second, it’s vital that public health professionals quell any rumors that are started in relation to their posts. There’s a fine line between providing information and scaring patients and professionals need to be on hand at all times to dispel any rumors that could come from your social media posts.
How to Get Involved
If you would like to get involved with social media as a public health professional, you’ll need to undergo some training. It’s advisable to complete an online MPH program and learn as much as possible in relation to public health campaigns and how to implement them correctly. An online MPH degree will also teach you more about patient confidentiality and HIPAA and teach you how to ensure you remain in compliance.
As technology continues to advance, new (and better) ways of communicating with patients are becoming available. It is easier than ever before to educate and to stop epidemics in their tracks. Public health is just one of the fields that have benefitted from technological advances and it will be interesting to see what the future holds.