Social Media in Healthcare, Scary Business?

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

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5 thoughts on “Social Media in Healthcare, Scary Business?

  1. I can understand how a lot of of our older generations who weren’t exposed to computers all their lives can be skeptical about this. Even most people our age (18-24) may raise an eyebrow when their personal welfare (healthcare) is in the hands of social media, yet these same people have no problem publicly posting their private pictures and/or activities online. One of my family members recently had a surgery that was performed using a doctor controlled robot which quite frankly might raise some concern for me in its beginning stages of use.With WebMD’s 86 million users per month (Wikipedia) to testify, social healthcare is here to stay.

  2. I am personally for the digital documentation of medical records, as long as certain safety precautions are taken. And I believe that the right database and networking technologies will allow this to come about in the near future, with a lot less resistance from the public.I do believe that regular individuals (non-medical doctors) sharing information over the internet through social media sites and blogging could prove to be a huge problem though. Not only is their a constant worry about the spread of misinformation; but even if something works for one patient, it may not work for another. This could lead individuals to believe that they should look up their symptoms and treatments online before consulting an actual doctor (I have been guilty of this on a number of occasions), which may not be a problem when it comes to mild issues. However, if an individual does have a serious medical problem, and misdiagnoses themselves due to information that they found online, they can find themselves leaving a serious problem untreated. Certain sites are doing their part to help, by requiring users to sign-up in order to verify their integrity, but there are still many sites and blogs out there that can be accessed at any time that can end up doing more harm than good.I know that this wasn’t the point that you were trying to make in your post, but this is how I feel about the medical field and social media.

  3. I think social media in health care can go hand in hand together. When you go to a doctors office and sign in on the piece of paper they tell you to sit down in the waiting room while one of the desk figures goes to find your file on record. With the way technology is going places now have computers that can log you into your appointment and have your files already on their computer. This saves ample amount of time for them to look thought thousands upon thousands of records to just find yours. Now in the the room, they can pull up your files on there computers or even now in the future touch screen laptops and tablets. This is fastest and very simplistic way to store and keep your records. The only flaws to this is that if someone hacks into the computer they now have access to everyone else’s medical records. This would be the same as if someone broke into the doctors office and stole all the paper medical records but if its on a computer and hacked theres still ways to back up this information rather then having the papers stolen and all the records gone.

  4. Digitizing medical records seems to the the next plausible step in healthcare. Currently hospitals still maintain a paper database of their patients. This is a hassle however for the patients because they must physically transfer their files from one hospital to the next should the require another opinion. With digitized medical records it would be as simple as accessing a central database of healthcare information and opening it up in another computer screen. Granted their are security risks involved with the digital storage of healthcare information. Should someone hack into the database and alter records, or if a natural disaster physically damages the hard disks the information is stored on. These issues are an important argument against the digitization of medical records, but the benefits i believe outweigh the potential negatives. The possibilities of one day being able to access your medical records on a digital file would also promote the use and creation of technologies to further that end. President Obama has attempted to further that goal by requiring health care providers to have their medical records digitized by 2014. According to the article written on CNNmoney (a) this digitization will also increase the amount of jobs in the information technology departments of the health care industry.(a) http://money.cnn.com/2009/01/12/technology/stimulus_health_care/

  5. Unfortunately with the addition of electronic health records to provider offices it has created a disconnect with patients. This is caused by taking the pen and paper out of the provider hands and replacing it with a laptop. The provider is still doing the same thing they were previously, but now it’s much more obtrusive to the patient experience. This is also a symptom of the current reimbursement methods by insurance companies. Currently, providers are paid for each visit so the more patients seen the more money they receive. One solution to this problem (from an insurance prospective) is to change the way providers are reimbursed. In an effort to move away from the "see as many patients as you can" mind set they are now starting to reimburse providers based on the quality of care and how healthy their patients are. If doctors have more time with patients and even time after the visit to document this could change the face of healthcare and change the patient experience for the better.

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