American researchers R. Craig Lefebvre, PhD and Alexandra S. Bornkessel, MA have published an article in Circulation, a publication by the American Heart Association, about social media and healthcare, Social Media as a Tool in Medicine. In the article, the authors research the emergence of social media, and specifically social network sites and their impact on health information-seeking and health-related behaviors.
The authors determine that little relevant research has been done into ways healthcare can effectively and efficiently use social media. They show how social media networks can be used and reveal important questions and pitfalls for further research.
The article also offers the authors’ views on the key factors to consider when using social media networks in healthcare by giving six considerations for practice.
- Put social in Social Media. The power of using social media is not to reach people in new ways, it is to take advantage of the connections people have. So the question should not be “How do I reach and influence people?” but “How do we facilitate conversations among people, and encourage them to share their knowledge and information with others?”
- Collaborate and cocreate. User-generated, or in this case patient-generated, content is underused in healthcare and health promotion because there is a lack of consensus on how it is best utilized in a mutually beneficial manner.
- Create Shared Experiences. Keep in mind the 5 E’s when working with social media network sites: Educate people on issues and problems relevant to them, Engage people in positive and meaningful ways, make sure there is an Entertainment value to your offerings, make sure people are Empowered as a result of their experiences, take advantage of every opportunity to let people become your Evangelists. Many of these can be achieved through a sixth E: creating a shared Experience. Social media network sites must focus on designing an environment where people can co-create their experience.
- Think beyond big numbers and big networks. In the social media environment it is about communities, not about audiences. In their quest for success on social media, users join or use network sites based on the number of visitors rather than on an understanding of whether the people they wish to interact with are there, or even if those sites are the best place to interact with them on healthcare issues or medical topics.
- Honor the Trust Barometer. The most important concern healthcare providers and policymakers have is the trustworthiness of information people can get online and through social media. Thrust is one of the most important attributes of success on social media. But also one of the more easily lost ones if users experience lack of transparency, have difficulty using media or receive conflicting information from two or more sources.
- Follow professional standards. Many (American) healthcare professionals are hesitant to communicate through social media out of concern that their words will be viewed out of context or will be interpreted as medical advice. Or cross professional standards. In response to this, the American Medical Association drafted a ‘Professionalism in the use of social media’ policy encouraging the appropriate use of social media.
The entire article by Lefebvre and Bornkessel can be found here.
Source: Circulation 2013; 127: 1829-1836