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Doctors and Social Media

  • August 15, 2018

Today, 2.77 billion people use social media and this number increases month-to-month. An active social media presence is starting to become mandatory across many different industries, as more leaders realise its potential for improving services and attracting new clients. This also goes for the healthcare industry, which is notoriously slow at adopting new technologies and communication tools due resultant of the fear about violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA) rules, is starting to utilise all things social media.

Many doctors are beginning to use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram to interact with patients and colleagues outside of the surgery and hospital, collect helpful medical information, and generally set up a stronger presence in people’s daily lives.

In today’s post, we provide you with the benefits of social media, why doctors enjoy using social media, how to protect your privacy online and how to deal with online harassment and abuse.


Benefits of Social Media in a Snapshot:

  • Build your professional network
  • Offer and access professional and peer support
  • Campaign on issues important to you
  • Follow debates and developments around your work
  • Share ideas and information

Why do doctors use social media?

  1. To connect with patients

The use of social media allows doctors to support patients outside of the surgery and hospital. 60% of doctors report that social media improves the quality of care they deliver to patients for multiple reasons.

The first is that it allows doctors to see what their patients are thinking, doing and even eating which allows them to better serve their patients’ needs.

The second is that it allows the doctor-patient relationship to improve as the use of Twitter can allow both sides to interact and learn from the people relying on them for healthcare.

  1. Educating Patients

Social media offers the opportunity to educate patients and the wider public. There are a number of ways to educate via social media. One way is to upload a link to new research about your area of specialty. For example, if you are a cardiologist, you may share a study that was completed about the impact of high cholesterol on overall cardiovascular health.

Another popular option is to record Facebook Live or YouTube videos. This is an excellent way to share complicated information in a friendly and informal manner.

Twitter is also a great platform as it allows you to put thoughts into your follower’s head. You will be limited to 140 characters and so it is important to utilise hashtags so people who are most interested can find your information easily.

Furthermore, reports reveal that 20% of patients who use social media are using it to get healthcare information – and so, it is important for doctors to ensure that patients are receiving accurate, up-to-date material to avoid inaccuracies and potentially harmful effects. As anyone can post practically anything online, doctors use social media to post credible articles to combat misinformation.

Other ways doctors enjoy combating false information is to post news and journal articles, credible online resources, and research studies for patients, other doctors and the general public to educate themselves with.

By doing so, doctors are doing their part to utilise technology and more specifically social media to fight against the spread of inaccurate and potentially deadly health information.

  1. Reducing face-to-face appointments

Technology is growing by leaps and bounds, and apps and websites now allow patients to have instant access to a physician via live video.

Some insurance companies may cover the cost of the appointment. This digital way of conducting appointments is also beneficial for doctors, who can save time and money travelling to and from their office.


Protecting your privacy online

Although the use of social media is great as it allows thousands of doctors to connect with their patients and colleagues online and participate in medical debates - it is important you know how to protect your personal data online.

Different social media platforms have different privacy settings and how secure or private you want to make your social media activity is up to you.

Facebook – allows you to fine-tune your privacy settings to choose exactly who can see your posts. You can also control how easily others can find your profile.

Twitter – allows you to make your tweets private, visible only to users you approve.

Community websites and forums – e.g. the BMA’s Connecting Doctors platform, offer a variety of privacy options.

A good rule is never to share or reveal anything on social media that you wouldn’t be happy to see printed in a newspaper.


Online Harassment and Abuse

Trolling is where someone seeks to provoke a negative response from others online.

If you are subjected to online abuse our first tip is to ignore the trolls – most of them will go away if you do not give them your time or attention.

However, if you are finding online messages or comments upsetting or distracting, you can mute or block their account. You can also report posts that are harassment, threats or spam. You can find details on how to do so on each platform’s Help Centre. It is illegal to threaten or harass someone online and the police should take it seriously if you report it.


If you are an international doctor who is interested in relocating to the UK and working within the NHS send your CV to [email protected] – and we will be happy to help you.

Come and say hello! Join our Facebook Group IMG Advisor. Here you will have access to frequent blog posts, the opportunity to ask questions and meet other IMGs!


References

Wither, D. (2018). How Doctors Are Using Social Media to Get Ahead - Social Media Explorer. [online] Social Media Explorer. Available at: https://socialmediaexplorer.com/content-sections/cases-and-causes/doctors-using-social-media-get-ahead/ [Accessed 15 Jul. 2018].

Bma.org.uk. (2018). BMA - Social media guidance for doctors. [online] Available at: https://www.bma.org.uk/advice/employment/ethics/social-media-guidance-for-doctors [Accessed 15 Jul. 2018].

 
 

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