My parents were discussing how they no longer have the attention of their primary care provider during an office visit for even the most mundane of visits, instead the doc or nurse practitioner is busy looking at their laptop, hardly ever making eye contact. “If this is the future of social media and the health care industry,” my mom said, “I want no part of it!” I tried to assure her that it is only a small fraction of the big picture of how the health care industry and patients can benefit from integrating social media into the health care system.
While many people are afraid of the loss of privacy with the innovation of the electronic medical record, it will undoubtedly improve the overall continuity of patient care. Hospitals and medical offices are rightly concerned about HIPAA violations and their IT departments have challenges that they have never faced before in preventing this from happening. Various patient communities are rich with social media; patients with similar conditions share their treatment modalities, get their questions answered, search for more in-tuned providers and hospitals and have a sense that they are not alone with their health problems. Sites like: patientslikeme.com and curetogether.com, are online communities that afford a measure of privacy so that the user can decide what he or she wishes to share with others.
Smart phones could, in the very near future, be connected to record and transmit medical monitoring data directly to the PHR (personal health record) there by phasing out the multiple monitoring devices that patients currently use. Innovators, such as Google Health and Microsoft Health Vault could provide the conduit from the smart phones to the cloud.
Currently few health care professionals are excited by social media or see the value in its use in their offices, however, it is here to stay, I believe and it will evolve quickly, which is probably why my parents and some of the older practitioners are not yet convinced of its value. The real challenge will be to expose providers and patients alike to the positives of a health care system fully integrated with social media in a friendly, learning environment while continuing to have positive face-to-face encounters, regardless of the fact that there is a the laptop in the exam room.
Logan N. Caldara
Senior, Information Science